THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has listed on its register the potential sale of News Corp Australia’s Perth mastheads, The Sunday Times and website PerthNow, to Seven West Media, as the lengthy deliberations between the two parties draw to a conclusion.
The listing seeks public submissions on competition issues relating to the sale, with a closing date of June 17.
The provisional date for a decision on the proposed sale is July 28, unless the ACCC releases a statement of issues, which could extend the review process.
Seven West owns The West Australian newspaper and Channel Seven.
The cost of producing a newspaper only one day a week in Western Australian has weighed against the bottom line of the News Sunday publication, and a sale to Seven West, as part of a seven-day a week newspaper operation, would increase its profitability.
It also would allow News to sell its Perth printing plant after it had negotiated a print and distribution deal for the West Australian edition of its national daily, The Australian.
Seven West chief executive Tim Worner confirmed on Friday that commercial terms for a sale had been agreed, subject to regulatory approval, in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.
“We see the potential for a positive and growing future for The Sunday Times brand, which has been and will continue to be part of the fabric of this great state,” Mr Worner said.
“We have always had a strong commitment to Western Australia with Channel Seven Perth and The West Australian and our digital platforms and we are looking to strengthen that commitment.”
The proposed sale includes a four-year content sharing arrangement between West Australian Newspapers and News Corp publications. The control of The Sunday Time’s buildings would remain with News Corp Australia.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett told The West Australian he would be disappointed if the ACCC supported the merger.
“In WA, to have two newspapers . . . I think reflects a lack of competition in the media,” Mr Barnett said.
The Sunday Times was one of the first acquisitions by a young Rupert Murdoch for News Limited in 1955.
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