British Govt. To Review Gannett Acquisition

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(AP) The British government’s anti-monopoly watchdog will review the sale of Glasgow’s leading newspapers to Gannett UK Ltd., competition minister Melanie Johnson said Tuesday.

Published reports have said SMG PLC has agreed to sell The Herald, Sunday Herald, and Evening Times to the British arm of Gannett Co. Inc. for 216 million pounds, which is roughly equivalent to $341.3 million. Gannett is based in McLean, Va.

SMG, formerly Scottish Media Group, and Gannett had no immediate comment on their negotiations.

SMG said it decided to sell the newspapers to concentrate on its broadcasting properties, including Scottish Television and Grampian Television, and other growth areas.

Gannett owns Newsquest, a British publishing group which owns more than 300 newspapers including 15 dailies, and has 9,000 employees. It describes itself as Britain’s second-largest publisher of regional and local newspapers.

A review by competition authorities is normally required for the sale of newspapers which have an average paid circulation over 500,000.

“Gannett U.K. Ltd. has applied for … consent to acquire SMG’s newspapers and related assets under the special newspaper merger regime,” the Department of Trade and Industry said. “The application falls under the mandatory reference provisions of the newspaper merger regime.

“The [Competition Commission] will be directed to report on whether the proposed transfers may be expected to operate against the public interest, looking in particular at the need for accurate presentation of news and free expression of opinion,” the department said.

On the Net:

Department of Trade and Industry: http://www.dti.gov.uk

Scottish Media Group: http://www.smg.plc.uk

Gannett: http://www.gannett.com

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