The worst-kept secret in the Australian media is out. New Zealand’s two largest newspaper publishers, APN and Fairfax, confirmed this morning they were in talks about merging their Kiwi assets into a new company, to be listed on the NZ Stock Exchange from late June (assuming all goes to plan).
The merger will rely on the approval of key regulator The Commerce Commission. But today’s announcements were missing any discussion of competition issues, or of News Corp Australia, a 14.9% shareholder in APN likely to take a stake in the new company. Fairfax CEO and managing director Greg Hywood said in a statement this morning:
“This is an important opportunity for all of our shareholders to be part of the future of content and journalism in New Zealand. The merger would enhance the position the businesses are in to continue to deliver high quality, local content to audiences now and in the future.”
APN CEO Ciaran Davis added:
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“Along with the other initiatives APN announced this morning, the merger of NZME and Fairfax’s NZ business provides an exciting opportunity for our shareholders, particularly our New Zealand shareholders, to participate in the creation of a leading media business for New Zealanders … The New Zealand businesses of NZME and Fairfax are, to a large extent, complementary.”
So far as both companies are concerned, it’s an upbeat outlook for print media in NZ, without a competition worry being expressed publicly.