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High Court blocks NZME, Fairfax merger

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The High Court of New Zealand has dismissed the appeal of publishers NZME and Fairfax Media NZ to merge, bring to end the 18 month process.

The publishers appealed to the High Court in October, arguing that the Commerce Commission’s initial rejection in May did not accurately consider the merger, stating it did not properly weigh the impact of platform publishers Google and Facebook.

However, two months of deliberations by the court ruled in the regulator’s favour.

Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood said the decision was disappointing.

“While the merger brought synergies that would have sustained journalism at scale in New Zealand for many years, our New Zealand business has continued to implement its own strategy and shape a separate future,” he said.

“Our New Zealand business is embracing radical change, becoming more dynamic and cost efficient, and continuing to grow a diversified revenue mix of digital products and services to support New Zealand journalism.

“I would like to thank all our people for working so rigorously and effectively through a lengthy period of uncertainty. This shows the business is in the hands of talented, passionate people who will carve out a prosperous future for the company,” Mr Hywood said.

The sentiments were echoed by NZME CEO Michael Boggs.

“While the Fairfax merger offered us benefits, we have not been resting on our laurels in the last 18 months as we pursued the transaction,” he said.

”We will continue to examine shareholder value-enhancing strategic initiatives, leveraging our strong brands and audience reach, while enhancing the competitiveness of content generation and distribution.

“We remain very much of the view that the New Zealand media sector is an exciting place to operate and, while there are headwinds in some areas, there are real opportunities in others. NZME is well positioned to take advantage of those opportunities.”

The full ruling of the court is yet to be released but is expected in the coming days.

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