De Persgroep is conditionally allowed to acquire majority interest in Dutch publishing company PCM
The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has ruled that Flemish media company De Persgroep is allowed to acquire a majority interest in Dutch publishing company PCM Holding, under the condition that NRC Handelsblad and nrc.next, two of PCM's national newspapers, are sold. Not only will such a move safeguard the competition on the newspaper-reader market for local and regional newspapers in the Amsterdam metro area, but it will also strengthen local, regional and national competition between NRC Handelsblad/nrc.next on the one hand, and (the remaining PCM newspapers) De Volkskrant, Trouw and AD on the other hand.
De Persgroep N.V. is a Flemish media company with a majority interest in Dutch newspaper Het Parool, a newspaper predominantly distributed in the Amsterdam metro area. PCM Holding B.V. publishes Dutch national newspapers NRC Handelsblad, nrc.next, de Volkskrant, Trouw, and also newspaper AD in cooperation with Dutch media company Wegener. PCM plans to buy out Wegener's stake in AD in the near future to acquire full control over AD. The NMa was notified of this planned transaction on May 8th, 2009, and it is currently reviewing those plans.
In its original notification, as filed with the NMa, De Persgroep did not indicate to sell the two newspapers NRC Handelsblad and nrc.next. These original plans were met with competition-law concerns by the NMa. According to those plans, De Persgroep would acquire a large share of the newspaper-reader market for local and regional newspapers in the Amsterdam metro area, because Het Parool and the majority of the national newspapers would then come under one roof. Research shows that, when they do switch, readers of Het Parool tend to go to De Volkskrant or NRC Handelsblad/nrc.next. Competition on the newspaper-reader market in the Amsterdam metro area could therefore be significantly impeded by the merger of Het Parool and the PCM newspapers. In response to the objections raised by the NMa, De Persgroep's already existing plan to sell NRC Handelsblad and nrc.next was included in an amendment to the notification. With the hiving-off of both NRC Handelsblad and nrc.next, the NMa's objection that De Persgroep could increase the price of Het Parool in the Amsterdam metro area in order to maximize profits has been taken away.
With regard to offering advertising space, a market on which both De Persgroep and PCM are active, the NMa does not foresee any competition concerns as a result of the planned take-over.
The public version of the decision (in Dutch) will be published shortly on the NMa's website (www.acm.nl).