The proposed acquisition of Landmark Media by the Irish Times has been delayed following a decision by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to take its deliberations to a “phase two” investigation.
The delay means that the acquisition will drag on for a few more months although the CCPC has said that it must make a final decision on the proposed deal by August 1st. This deadline could change, however, if the CCCP decides that it needs more information about the deal which was announced back in December 2017.
A statement from the CCCP says: “Following a preliminary investigation, the CCPC has determined that further analysis is required to establish if the proposed transaction could lead to a substantial lessening of competition in any market for goods or services in the State.”
Both parties to the transaction are understood to be disappointed with the CCCP’s decision. Speaking to the Irish Times, Liam Kavanagh, managing director said: “The decision to enter into a phase two investigation is disappointing. We look forward to continuing the process of engagement with the CCPC with a view to getting clearance for the proposed acquisition as quickly as possible,” he added.
The most recent set of accounts for Landmark – for 53 weeks to January 1st 2017, show that it reported a turnover of €47.34m and an operating profit of €847,490. Pre-tax profits, meanwhile, amounted to €229,000 while the group’s bank debt amounted to €16.9m. As part of the deal, Landmark’s main banker, AIB, had agreed to take a write-down on the amount it is owed by the company. No financial details about the cost of the acquisition have been disclosed by the Irish Times.
Apart from the Irish Examiner, Landmark’s other interests include the Evening Echo and six regional titles including the Waterford News & Star, the Western People, the Carlow Nationalist, the Kildare Nationalist, the Laois Nationalist and the Roscommon Herald.
The company also has a 75% stake in WLR in Waterford and regional station Beat as well as a 17.6% stake Red FM in Cork. Its digital assets, meanwhile, include Breakingnews.ie, Irishexaminer.com, Recruitireland.com and 75% of Benchwarmers.ie.