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Antitrust Authority approves Maariv sale to Jerusalem Post Group
By NIV ELIS
30/04/2014
'Maariv' sale to 'Post' owner Eli Azur approved after legal body rules acquisition will not give company disproportionate market share.
 
The Israel Antitrust Authority on Wednesday approved the sale to The Jerusalem Post Group of the Ma’ariv newspaper, and of its Web portal NRG and newspaper Makor Rishon to Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom.

The Jerusalem Post Group will absorb 50 workers from Ma’ariv, including 30 on the management and administrative side and 20 writers on a freelance basis. The group is in the process of making decisions regarding the continued operation of the paper in its new format.

Jerusalem Post
CEO Ronit Hasin-Hochman welcomed the decision, saying “the group has proven in recent years that it knows a thing or two about what the Israeli public wants and likes and wants to read and know.”

The Antitrust Authority’s approval, based on considerations of how the sale would affect competition in the market, was the last legal hurdle required for the sales to go through after the Jerusalem District Court approved the transaction in late March.

“A business test of the merger did not raise the stated concerns that justify opposition to it in the framework of the Antitrust Law,” the authority said in a statement.

Whereas the free daily Israel Hayom is widely circulated, Makor Rishon sells for a significant price and has a different audience. As a result, the authority found, they are not direct competitors and can safely be consolidated.

The decision will come as a relief to Makor Rishon’s 130 employees, who protested outside the authority’s building in the capital on Tuesday, arguing that failure to approve the sale by the end of the week would force the paper to shut its doors. That, too, would have harmed the consuming public, the authority said.

Regarding The Jerusalem Post’s acquisition of Ma’ariv, the authority focused on the group’s Hebrew-language weekend publication, Sof Hashavua. That portion of the market has many competitors, the authority said, so the addition of Ma’ariv would not give the company a disproportionate market share.

Founded in 1948, Ma’ariv was Israel’s most popular newspaper in its heyday, but its popularity dropped in recent years. In the second half of 2011, it controlled just 10.7 percent of the market.

After changing hands several times in recent years, it was sold to Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, who had snapped up Makor Rishon in 2003, six years after the latter was established.

“Ma’ariv, from the day of its founding, was and remains a popular and respected media outlet, and we are excited and preparing for the challenges we face,” Hasin-Hochman said.
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