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Telegraph Media Group Ltd: Acquisition

Volume 747: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2024

On 26 January 2024, I issued a public interest intervention notice (PIIN) in relation to the anticipated acquisition of Telegraph Media Group Ltd (TMG) by RB Investco Ltd on the grounds of the need for accurate presentation of news and free expression in newspapers.

The PIIN triggered a requirement for Ofcom to report by 11 March on the media public interest considerations and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on jurisdiction and competition issues. I issued a statement on 12 March to confirm that I had received those reports and undertook to set out my “minded to” decision on the next step in this process: whether or not to refer the merger to a fuller phase 2 investigation.

On the basis of the regulators’ assessments, I can now confirm that I am minded to refer this merger to a phase 2 investigation on the grounds of the need for accurate presentation of news and free expression of newspapers.

The CMA has found that arrangements are in progress or in contemplation which, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation; a finding that is a prerequisite for me to be able to refer this matter for a further investigation at all. However, it does not believe that it is or may be the case that this merger has resulted, or may be expected to result, in substantial lessening of competition within a market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.

Ofcom has found that it is or may be the case that the potential merger situation may be expected to operate against the public interest, having regard to the specified public interest considerations. In particular, it considers that International Media Investments (IMI), a majority partner in RB Investco’s parent company, may have the incentive to influence TMG in a way that could potentially act against the public interest in the UK by influencing the accurate presentation of news and free expression of opinion in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph newspapers.

I will be publishing both the CMA and Ofcom reports in due course, copies of which will be deposited in the Library of both Houses. I will also publish the letters to both parties setting out my “minded to” decision.

I am now required by legislation to allow the parties the opportunity to make representations to me before I reach a final decision. I have given them until 9 am on 25 March 2024 to respond.

I will aim to make a further statement on any decision I may come to as quickly as possible.

The pre-emptive action order I issued on 29 January 2024 will continue to apply to the merging parties and related entities until a final decision has been taken on matters described in the January PIIN.

In the meantime, given the ongoing quasi-judicial nature of this process, I am unable to comment substantively on the matter of this case.

I had also issued a PIIN on 30 November 2023 in relation to the anticipated acquisition of Telegraph Media Group Ltd by RedBird IMI, which was then RB Investco’s parent company.

The CMA has found that arrangements as described in the November PIIN are no longer in progress or in contemplation. I accept the CMA’s findings on this matter and this PIIN now ceases to be in force.

[HCWS357]