Nadine Dorries could intervene over Archant deal

She said that she was “minded” to issue an intervention notice, which would lead to the sale being blocked.

Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, is poised to intervene in a takeover by the local newspaper group Newsquest of its rival Archant.

Newsquest, which publishes titles including The Northern Echo and the Lancashire Telegraph, sealed a deal last month to buy the East Anglia-based company. Archant, which was sold by the private equity firm Rcapital, owns newspapers including the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News plus the regional Country Life magazines. It employs 760 staff.

Dorries said that she was “minded” to issue an intervention notice, which would lead to the sale being blocked.

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The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said in a letter to the groups that Dorries has “plurality concerns” over how the merger could impact competition where the two companies operate.

“The merger will see the two largest local newspaper groups in East Anglia combining,” the letter said.

“While news will still be available for consumers from other local and national providers (ie. radio, TV and online) . . . the majority of local newspapers will come under single ownership. Such concentration of ownership has the potential to impact the plurality of views available in local newspapers in East Anglia.

“This risk may be exacerbated by any potential restructuring within Archant’s titles, a possibility that has been subject to press speculation.”

The culture secretary has asked for reports by two watchdogs, the Competition and Markets Authority and Ofcom, before deciding whether a full investigation is needed by the competition regulator.

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