Trinity Mirror's planned Express acquisition could face government investigation

David Prior's picture
by David Prior

Trinity Mirror's £127m deal to buy the Express titles from Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell could face a government investigation, the Culture Secretary has said.

Matt Hancock said he was "minded" to intervene on public interest grounds, including the need to ensure a "plurality of views" in the media.

The Competition and Markets Authority has already announced that it will look into the planned acquisition, which was approved by 99% of Trinity’s shareholders at a meeting last month.

Hancock said the deal would mean that Trinity Mirror, recently renamed Reach, would hold the largest share of national titles within the UK newspaper market, owning nine out of 20 national titles.

He also said it would become the second largest national newspaper organisation in circulation terms, with a 28% share.

"The first public interest ground [for investigating the merger] is the need for free expression of opinion, and concerns the potential impact the transfer of newspapers would have on editorial decision making," Hancock said.

"The second ground is the need for a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers, to the extent that it is reasonable or practicable."

Hancock said he would come to a final decision "shortly".

Simon Fox, chief executive of Reach, said: "This is a part of the process that we were aware was possible following our acquisition of the Northern & Shell publishing assets. We continue to believe there are no plurality or competition issues.

"We would expect any review by Ofcom arising from this Department for Media, Culture and Sport statement [to] happen in parallel with the CMA review, which we expect to conclude by June 7 2018."