APN News and Media will be the dominant shareholder in a company to control merged New Zealand print, radio and online assets, with partner Fairfax Media looking like it is preparing to exit the country.

In the event shareholder approval is gained, it is currently proposed that APN’s NZME will acquire Fairfax’s NZ assets (or shares) from parent company Fairfax Media for a mix of new shares in NZME and cash. Fairfax Media’s shareholding in the merged entity is expected to be less than 50%, according to public details in the submission from the two companies to the NZ Commerce Commission.

The submission was made to the Commerce Commission last week by Wilson and Horton Limited (trading as NZME) and Fairfax NZ Limited and seeks authorisation to merge their Kiwi media operations.

As Fairfax sells down, News Corp, with its 14.9% in APN, will be increasingly dominant. That’s why the level of retained interest in the proposed new joint venture company by APN will be watched closely on both sides of the Tasman.

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Fairfax operates the largest print media network in New Zealand, featuring nine daily and three weekly newspapers, 61 community publications, 10 magazine titles and six websites, including stuff.co.nz. It also has a minority shareholding in social media site Neighbourly. NZME owns eight daily and two weekly newspapers, 24 community publications, six magazine titles, 10 radio stations and 38 websites, including nzherald.co.nz. As well as websites related to its print and radio offerings, NZME owns a number of individual websites such as Grabone, Shop Green and Adhub.

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