Competition Commission clears bids for Newscom

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The Independent Online

Tthe carve-up of regional newspaper monopolies by a few big press groups gained new impetus yesterday when the Competition Commission cleared three competing bids for Newscom, the publisher of the Southampton Daily Echo.

The three bidders are Newsquest, bought last year by the US publisher Gannett, Johnston Press, which last year acquired the Portsmouth and Sunderland group, and Trinity Mirror, which merged in the autumn. Oddly, none seemed in a hurry to make an offer for Newscom, although sources said that could change before month end.

"Of course we want it," said an advisor to one bidder. "We have said from day one that this industry needs consolidation. All three parties feel that."

Newscom officials, meanwhile, huddled behind closed doors apparently planning an auction for the company, which has a market capitalisation of about £370m. The firm's finance director, Keith Sadler, has knocked it into shape in recent quarters, boosting profit margins by 2.8 percentage points to 19.7 per cent in the six weeks to end-December.

Newscom shares closed up 30p at 1,545p.