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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 14:53 GMT
Watchdog eyes newspapers bid
SMG's newspaper titles
SMG is shedding its newspaper titles
A bid by US newspaper group Gannett to buy SMG's newspapers has been referred to the Competition Commission.

Its offer to buy The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times has to be referred under newspaper merger rules.

According to BBC Scotland business staff, the move is the clearest indication yet that Gannett is the preferred bidder and that a deal is close to being agreed.

Gannett has 15 regional dailies and 200 weekly papers in England, and taken with SMG's titles means a combined circulation of approximately 600,000.

Robin Cook
Robin Cook: Addressed political concern

The commission will report back in March next year though a deal could be announced before then.

Media company SMG announced in September that it plans to sell its newspaper publishing business.

The Herald has daily circulation figures of 91,400.

Last month, Leader of the House of Commons Robin Cook said a proposed takeover by the owners of The Scotsman would be investigated by the Competition Commission.

He was responding to political concern that such a move would give the Barclay brothers control of Scotland's two biggest broadsheet newspapers.

SMG, a Glasgow-based firm, said in April that it had made a pre-tax profit of 36m, down from 59m in the previous year.

Media interests

The group described 2001 as one of the toughest years on record and was hit by a drop in advertising spending following the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Gannett is the largest newspaper group in the US in terms of newspaper circulation, the company says on its website.

The company's 94 daily newspapers in the US have a combined circulation of 7.7 million.

They include USA Today, the nation's largest selling daily, which has a circulation of approximately 2.3 million and is available in 60 countries worldwide.

It boasts over 100 websites in the US and UK, and operates 22 television stations covering 17.7% of the US.

Gannett was founded by Frank E Gannett and associates in 1906 and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967.

See also:

21 Nov 02 | Scotland
10 Sep 02 | Scotland
27 Sep 02 | Scotland
21 Jun 02 | Business
18 Apr 02 | Scotland
24 Oct 01 | Scotland
11 Sep 01 | Business
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