WARSAW, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Polish state-run lender Alior Bank has sought approval from the antimonopoly watchdog to take over Ruch, confirming speculation of a potential bid for the newspaper distributor.
A local news website said last month that as part of a rescue plan for troubled Ruch, Alior Bank would take over shares in the press distributor and then resell them to state-run oil refiner and petrol stations owner PKN Orlen.
“The planned concentration consists of Alior Bank taking control over Ruch,” watchdog UOKiK said in a statement published on its website.
Asked for a follow-up comment, Alior Bank said that it intends to resell Ruch shares to an investor or investors and that its takeover of the distributor would be conducted to support the restructuring of Ruch.
PKN Orlen was not immediately available to comment.
A takeover of a private press distributor by a state-run company would fall under a wider policy by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), which aims to take more control over Poland’s main assets and a bigger say in the media.
Since winning general election in 2015 the government has increased its involvement in the banking and energy sector.
The 100-year old Ruch is a well known brand in Poland and is now owned by investment fund Lurena Investment. Alior Bank is one of Ruch biggest debt-holders.
As part of an agreement signed in October between Alior Bank and Ruch the lender agreed to extend financing for the distributor and the companies pledged to work out a restructuring plan and finding an ultimate investor for Ruch.
According to Press Publishers Chamber Ruch has around 30-percent share in the Polish press distribution market but newspaper circulation has been hit by the shift to online news.
Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko Editing by Keith Weir