Competition Tribunal rejects bid to raise Natal Witness fine

Johannesburg - Publishing company Caxton has failed in its bid to increase a fine slapped on Naspers-owned company the Natal Witness from R1m to R40m.

The Competition Tribunal rejected the objection by Caxton and approved the R1m settlement for failure to notify the commission about a merger between the Natal Witness, owned by Naspers [JSE:NPN] and Mandla-Matla, for the provision of printing services.

In a statement on Monday, the Competition Tribunal said it had approved the settlement agreement between the commission and Natal Witness in relation to the Naspers-owned entity’s failure to notify a merger between it and Mandla-Matla for the provision of printing services. 

“In terms of the settlement agreement, Mandla-Matla is to pay a penalty of R200 000 and the Natal Witness R800 000, making the total fine R1m,” the commission said.  

An objection was filed to the commission by publishing company Caxton in June against the Natal Witness and Mandla-Matla, the company which owns the Zulu newspaper iLanga. 

Caxton objected to the approval of this consent agreement, on the basis that the penalty imposed was inadequate. 

Caxton asked the tribunal to impose a penalty of R40m, with R20m to be suspended for five years provided that Natal Witness and Media24 do not contravene the competition’s merger notification requirements in those five years.

The tribunal adopted a different approach in reviewing the commission’s negotiations for settlement agreements in failure to notify cases and therefore rejected Caxton’s application.

In June the Competition Tribunal rejected Caxton’s application to stop the Media24 merger with printing group Novus Holdings [JSE:NVS].

The tribunal dismissed the application on this basis, indicating that that the control structure was not relevant to the proposed transaction in the light of a condition attached to a demerger.

The condition was recommended by the Competition Commission.

In the case of a demerger, Media24 would divest its majority shareholding in Novus to parent company Naspers, and maintain a 19% non-controlling stake of Novus.

*Fin24 is part of parent company, Media24 which is owned by Naspers.

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