Trinity brushes aside concerns over Express deal

Trinity Mirror is confident that its £126.7 million deal to buy the Daily Express and the Daily Star does not present competition or media plurality issues, despite Government intervention in the tie-up.

On Tuesday, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock barged into the deal, saying he has referred it to media watchdog Ofcom on the grounds of public interest.

He expressed concerns over editorial decision-making and independence, as well as the reduction in the number of views in newspapers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) must also report back on jurisdiction, competition and public interest issues.

But the Daily Mirror publisher said in response: "The board remains confident that the acquisition does not present any competition or media plurality issues."

The two watchdogs have until May 31 to outline their findings, after which Mr Hancock will decide whether to refer the takeover for an in-depth investigation or accept moves to address concerns.

Under its planned takeover, Trinity will stump up an initial £47.7 million to Northern & Shell, followed by £59 million between 2020 and 2023 and a further £20 million in shares to the Richard Desmond-owned firm.

It comes at a difficult time for the newspaper industry, which is grappling with sliding advertising revenues, laid bare by a trading update issued by Trinity.

The group said that, excluding the Express titles, like-for-like revenue at the group fell 9% in the four months to April 29.

While advertising picked up in March and April, the extreme weather dented newspaper sales. Print advertising revenue fell by 17% and circulation revenue fell by 7%.

Revenue for the Express and Star is estimated to have fallen by 5% on a like-for-like basis, with print falling by 8% and digital growing by 40%.

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