The competition watchdog has confirmed it will be investigating the planned £50 million deal by the owners of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday to buy rival newspaper the i.
Officials at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have opened an inquiry into the purchase by Daily Mail General Trust to look at whether there are any potential regulatory issues.
Both sides had expected the CMA to intervene due to the size and nature of the deal, although they have previously suggested they see no major issues.
The first step by the CMA is to launch an “initial enforcement order” where submissions will be received before deciding whether to move on to a formal phase one stage.
At this point a more in-depth inquiry is carried out and any remedies are recommended to ensure no rules are broken.
In rare circumstances a phase two stage could be launched – a similar investigation into the failed Sainsbury’s and Asda merger reached this point – although it is not thought one will be required in this case.
Since the deal was announced, critics, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, have said they are concerned that the new owner would push the i’s editorial line to the right – in line with its other publications.
But Lord Rothermere and i editor Oly Duff have both insisted that editorial independence would remain.
The billionaire owner of the Daily Mail, the Viscount Rothermere, has bought @theipaper.
Two billionaire press barons now own half of the top 10 daily newspapers.
Remember this when they attack Labour's plan to make the super-rich pay their fair share.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 29, 2019
i & https://t.co/Sfjqu65RwZ acquired by dmg media
✅Guarantee of i editorial independence✅i political impartiality continues – integral to i trusted journalism✅Commitment to invest in quality journalism
Quotes from DMGT chairman Lord Rothermere + CEO Paul Zwillenberg follow
— Oly Duff (@olyduff) November 29, 2019
The i, was launched in 2010 as a compact sister version of the Independent, but time-poor readers liked the bite-sized news and it quickly overtook the Independent, which eventually closed and became an online-only operation.
According to DMGT, the i sells around 170,000 copies each weekday and 190,000 copies on Saturdays.
In 2018, revenues were £34 million with £11 million in “cash operating income and operating profit”.