ACCC approves Fairfax-Weekly Review deal
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has approved Fairfax Media’s 50% merger with Antony Catalano’s Metro Media Publishing business, publisher of Melbourne real estate advertising glossy The Weekly Review.
The ACCC said last night on its website it was not opposed to the $35 million cash and assets arrangement that sees Fairfax’s 32-mastehead suburban stable rolled in to the new entity, valued at around $125 million. The regulator commenced its review under its Merger Review Process Guidelines in February, and later sought more information from both sides of the tie-up and other interested parties.
The Weekly Review, which first hit footpaths two years ago, competed in parallel with Fairfax’s Melbourne Weekly for property ad supremacy in Melbourne’s leafy eastern, bayside and north-eastern suburbs. It had ripped more than $20 million out of Fairfax’s treasured real estate ad revenue, which it partly uses to subsidise its journalism initiatives.
Fairfax’s existing community footprint of 1.25 million households will now be combined with The Weekly Review’s 220,000 circulation, creating a bolstered entity to take on News Limited’s REA Group.
The merger, foreshadowed by Crikey last November, will leave Catalano as CEO of MMP. Fairfax acquired its stake by securing stakes from a number MMP shareholders that included leading real estate agents.
In an internal email to Fairfax staff, obtained by Crikey, Fairfax “Marketplaces” executives Nic Cola and Tony Blamey said that “The ACCC decision is a great outcome for both businesses, staff and clients, because it presents us with opportunities for growth and ensures a positive, customer-focused future for our FCN business.
“Fairfax and MMP are both committed to further development of the business model that includes providing real estate agents with the opportunity to participate in product development. Therefore, the merger will also mean that our clients are much more aligned to our future business.”
Catalano was equally effusive: “The merger will position the new entity as a significant media player in the Victorian market,” he said.
“The scale of the merged businesses will provide us with the opportunity to grow into new markets and to develop new products to better suit readers and advertiser needs.
“On a personal level, I am thrilled to reconnect with the enormous talent pool that exists within Fairfax. I spent 18 years working for Fairfax and have great regard for its people and its brands. I am looking forward to the many talented Fairfax Community Network and Metro Media Publishing staff coming together and continuing to grow our business.”
Rumours were circulating this morning that a new Catalano-helmed website will be set up to complement Domain.
It is not known if the merger will lead to synergy sackings. Staff briefings will be held tomorrow morning at Fairfax’s Media House HQ and tomorrow afternoon at Dandenong and Airport West.
Fairfax shares closed at a record low of 65¢ last night.
This article originally appeared on Crikey.
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