ACM deal with News not happening
The Covid earthquake smashing the regional and community newspaper industry is seeing News Corp looking at restructuring all its non-metro titles, but the proposed deal to sell them to ACM is off.
The two sides have been in tense discussions for the past few weeks, but have reportedly been unable to reach an agreement, with News Corp Australia chairman Michael Miller telling staff yesterday that "the most logical" acquirer of that part of its business was not proceeding as "those discussions have not resulted in a transaction."
News Corp is currently going through an external Deloitte review into how it can reduce costs. It has 100 regional and community newspapers. ACM is the business formed a year ago by former Fairfax exec Anthony Catalano when he spent $125m to buy the regional newspaper arm of what was then Nine. It has around 170 mastheads in its stable.
News has currently suspended printing on 60 of its community papers, including former cash cows the Wentworth Courier, Manly Daily and Mosman Daily. ACM has suspended printing on 160 of its regional titles, and stopped the presses at four printing sites.
News is strong in Queensland with titles including The Daily Mercury, The Morning Bulletin, The Queensland Times, and The Observer, while ACM operates mainly in NSW and Victoria.
Speculation on a merger between the two divisions has rumbled on for years, but the intense rivalry between what was Fairfax and News prevented any deal from getting off the ground. However, now, with a third party in the frame, the two had a major obstacle removed to becoming one.
The post-Covid shape and size of regional and community newspapers is a great unknown, many were already struggling prior to the virus, what is certain is that not all will return in printed form.
News is currently pushing on with a new greenfield print site for its Melbourne metro titles.