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Court rules NZME can’t buy Stuff

Wednesday, 26 September 2018
By Print21

NZME headquarters in Auckland.

The New Zealand Court of Appeals has knocked back NZME’s attempt to buy out Stuff, the New Zealand arm of Fairfax Media. The ruling upholds previous decisions by the New Zealand Commerce Commission and High Court.

NZME prints the New Zealand Herald, and six regional daily papers, and also prints several Stuff newspapers using its presses in Auckland.

Under the proposed merger, NZME would have paid $NZ55 million ($A38m) for Fairfax’s New Zealand operations and issued new shares to allow Fairfax to hold a 41% stake in NZME.

NZME and Stuff launched the appeal after the New Zealand High Court knocked back their last appeal in December 2017, which sought to overturn the NZCC’s May 2017 decision to block the merger on the grounds that it could substantially lessen competition in advertising and reader markets in New Zealand. The court denied the request and ordered both parties to pay the appeal costs.

Disappointed: Sinead Boucher, CEO Stuff.

Sinead Boucher, CEO of Stuff, maintained in an email to staff that the NZCC’s decision to block the merger, which had been upheld by the High Court, was “wrong in fact and in law”, hence the appeal. “The decision is not the outcome we had hoped for, but, as everyone will be aware, we have not been sitting around idly waiting for it,” she said. The process has spanned more than two years, and in the meantime we have forged ahead with our own strategy of growing our Stuff and Neighbourly platforms, and new digital ventures, complemented by a strong portfolio of newspapers and magazines.”

NZCC deputy chair Sue Begg welcomed the ruling. In its initial decision, the commission expressed concern that the merger would concentrate media ownership in New Zealand to an unprecedented extent for a modern liberal democracy. “We are pleased the Court has again upheld our decision and look forward to reviewing the judgment,” she said.

the NZME radio network and e-commerce sites GrabOne, HeraldHomes and driven.co.nz; it also prints some Stuff newspapers using its presses in Auckland. Stuff’s assets include stuff.co.nz, more than 60 metro, Sunday, regional and community newspapers, and a share of neighbourly.co.nz.

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