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Rural defends its Harris takeover offer

Friday, 31 October 2003
By Print21

Stung by suggestions that it would decimate jobs in Tasmania if it succeeds in gaining control of Harris and Company, Rural Press points to Harris’ own strategy of reducing the labour force, citing a statement in the annual report that staff numbers fell by 18 during the past 12 months with more to come. In what is becoming an increasingly heated barney, Rural challenges the Harris management to come clean on ‘exactly how many staff will be out of work under their plans.’

Rural also denies that its bid started out as a hostile takeover, claiming it initiated contact with Harris and Company to discuss the acquisition before lodging its bid at $31 per ordinary share. In a statement to clarify its position, Rural criticises the Harris directors for rejecting the offer as financially inadequate, without providing an independent valuation, ‘despite having engaged the services of Melbourne-based lawyers, Sydney-based investment bankers, and a separate national public relations company.’

It says Rural Press is about growing businesses, not destroying them and gives a commitment that The Advocate will remain as ‘an independent, passionate and parochial newspaper representing the communities of the northwest of Tasmania.’

In making its case that it is able to offer a better future to the shareholders and employees of Harris, Rural Press says it is not a newcomer to the Tasmanian market, with publishing interests in The Examiner and The Sunday Examiner for the past 13 years. ‘Over this period we have established our credentials as a passionate publisher acting in the interests of all stakeholders, in particular the local community.’

It also says that as a specialist web printer in all states of Australia it has a proven track record of growing web printing businesses in all markets including sites such as Ballarat, Canberra, Murray Bridge, and North Richmond (NSW), utilising similar equipment to that at Burnie.

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