The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has referred KM Group’s proposed acquisition of seven local newspaper titles in Kent to the Competition Commission for an in-depth merger review, resulting in KM Group withdrawing its bid to acquire the series of titles. The OFT acknowledged that various media, in particular the internet, compete with local newspapers, but still considered this transaction as a merger to monopoly in local weekly newspapers in several areas.

This decision, the first of its kind since the OFT’s 2009 review of the local and regional media merger regime, will likely have significant implications for future mergers in the UK’s local newspaper industry. The 2009 review had considered the current legislative structure to be adequate for analysing transactions in the sector, but many may now question that.

Nabarro LLP acted for KM Group in the OFT’s merger control process.