Merger: competition tribunal approves buy-out of natal Witness by Media24

2012-05-15 00:00

THE Competition Tribunal yesterday approved the long-awaited merger that will see Pietermaritzburg’s Craib family sell their remaining 50% stake in the company that publishes The Witness to Media 24 — subject to certain conditions.

The Craib family, which has controlled the Natal Witness Printing and Publishing Company (Pty) Ltd since 1942, sold a 50% share to Media 24 in 2000. Yesterday the tribunal approved the sale of the remaining stake to Media 24.

The Natal Witness publishes several newspapers, including the 166-year-old Witness — the oldest newspaper in South Africa) — and Weekend Witness.

Among the conditions are that an additional Natal Witness printing press be installed within six months and be made available to small independent publishers for five years on pricing and other terms stipulated in the tribunal’s order.

The Natal Witness currently owns 30% of Africa Web, which prints community newspapers in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, while Media 24 owns 50%. The merger will mean that Media 24 will own 80% of Africa Web.

Another condition to the merger is that the KZN and northern Eastern Cape community newspaper publishing businesses within the Media24 group, and their representatives, must have no influence over operational or strategic decisions at Africa Web.

The tribunal also ruled that Media24 and Paarl Media must undertake to use their control over Africa Web to ensure that any material printing asset cannot be sold or transferred out of Africa Web without the tribunal’s prior approval.

It ordered further that Media24 and Paarl Media must notify the commission of all future small mergers with small independent publishers as well as with firms that offer printing services to small independent publishers.

This condition will apply for as long as Media24 and Paarl Media, or any entity controlled by them, control Africa Web.

The tribunal ordered that Media24 must ensure that Africa Web continues to print for any small independent publishers on certain terms relating to pricing and the quality and service standards of printing.

The tribunal also stipulated various monitoring obligations, including that Africa Web must submit an annual compliance report to the Competition Commission.

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