Limerick Leader owner cleared to acquire two more titles

CCPC clears publisher to acquire titles and company now must seek Minister’s approval

Formpress is ultimately owned by Mediaforce Holdings Limited, a business controlled by UK advertising executive Malcolm Denmark. Photograph: iStock

Formpress is ultimately owned by Mediaforce Holdings Limited, a business controlled by UK advertising executive Malcolm Denmark. Photograph: iStock

 

Newspaper owner Formpress Publishing has been cleared by the State’s consumer watchdog to acquire an additional two titles – the Midland Tribune and the Tullamore Tribune, in addition to their online operations.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) cleared the acquisition by Formpress, which controls 14 titles including the Limerick Leader, subject to a number of binding commitments.

Formpress is ultimately owned by Mediaforce Holdings Limited, a business controlled by UK advertising executive Malcolm Denmark. Mediaforce channels national advertising to local and regional newspapers throughout the Republic and the CCPC expressed concern that the tie-up could have an impact on competition.

In particular, the competition body was concerned that Mediaforce could potentially direct advertising revenues towards its own newspapers to the detriment of competing titles. The watchdog also noted that, once the transaction completes, there would be the potential for the exchange of commercially sensitive information about competitor newspapers and digital newspaper titles.

To address those concerns, Mediaforce and Formpress submitted proposals to the CCPC to allay the watchdog’s concerns.

Commitments

Mediaforce committed to directing the advertising business received from its clients to newspaper titles on a “strictly fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis” and to apply equivalent conditions to Formpress titles and non-Formpress titles.

The two parties also committed to a separation of management and non-disclosure of information.

Aside from the Limerick Leader, Formpress controls the Kilkenny People, the Longford Leader, the Leinster Express, the Leinster Leader, the Tipperary Star, the Dundalk Democrat, the Donegal Democrat, the Leitrim Observer and the Nationalist in Clonmel.

Formpress is 100 per cent owned by Iconic Newspapers, controlled by Mr Denmark, which paid Johnston Press €8.7 million for the Irish titles in April 2014.

To ensure that the company complies with the conditions set by the CCPC, an independent monitoring trustee will be appointed. They will have the “rights and powers necessary to monitor compliance with the commitments”.

Following the CCPC’s approval, the parties will now have to submit a notification to the Minister for Communications Richard Bruton, who will assess the merger separately with a focus on media plurality.