Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:

Bitter competitors News Limited and Fairfax are believed to be in secret talks to merge their flagship recruitment websites CareerOne and MyCareer to take on PBL’s hugely successful online jobs site Seek.

Sources
close to the deal say the two elephants of Australia’s newspaper
industry approached competition regulator Graeme Samuel about a month
ago and were given an indication that he is prepared to consider the
proposed merger. Crikey understands that confidential talks between the
parties are believed to have been continuing in recent weeks.

Sources
say the collaboration is the brainchild of Fairfax chairman Ron Walker, who is
also seen as being extremely close to James Packer and PBL.

Walker
is understood to have enlisted the support of News Limited CEO John
Hartigan about a month ago. Since then the two have apparently been
planning a joint venture between the two rival newspaper
companies, which they see as the best way of taking on Seek.

Such a move would lock up the most
lucrative classified advertising market of all – recruitment – for
Australia’s three biggest media companies, creating a cosy
Fairfax/News/PBL duopoly. News doesn’t have a big market share in
Sydney and Melbourne, but it owns the market in Brisbane, Adelaide and
Hobart.

News Limited and PBL are co-owners of the Foxtel
subscription television business, but relations between the two
companies appear to have deteriorated since Kerry Packer’s death late
last year. In recent weeks News Limited papers have been been
particularly critical of James Packer and new Nine CEO Eddie McGuire.
News Limited also joined a legal case to fight Nine’s court injunction
to stop further publication of an embarrassing affidavit by former
current affairs boss Mark Llewellyn, after it was published by Crikey.

Fairfax was unwilling to provide on-the-record comment. News
Limited corporate affairs director Greg Baxter said there were no current merger plans
but he wasn’t able to comment on whether talks had taken place. An ACCC
spokeswoman said
there was no public merger proposal but many merger proposals brought
before the ACCC are confidential.

Peter Fray

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