May 10, 2020 / 10:39 PM / 15 days ago

New Zealand's NZME seeks legislation for Stuff takeover amid pandemic

May 11 (Reuters) - One of New Zealand’s biggest media organisations, NZME Ltd, asked the government on Monday for urgent legislation to allow the company to buy rival news firm Stuff for a dollar, as the coronavirus crisis hammers the industry, threatening jobs and smaller outlets.

NZME, which owns the New Zealand Herald, said it was not seeking financial support from the government but asking that legislation be passed so it could acquire Stuff by the end of the month.

It also filed a request with the New Zealand Commerce Commission to consider the application with “urgency.”

In a statement, NZME said that “the New Zealand media sector is too small for the current number of quality participants and consolidation is urgent in the face of dramatically declining advertising revenue and current general economic conditions.”

Stuff has been on NZME’s radar for years, with a previous takeover attempt in 2017 being blocked by the Commission over competition concerns.

Stuff has since changed ownership to Nine Entertainment Co Holdings, and NZME and the Australian firm have been involved in exclusive talks over the deal since April 23.

NZME hopes to complete the takeover by the end of May and is offering NZ$1, not including some non-media assets, for Stuff.

“NZME continues to believe that it is the best owner for Stuff as it is best placed to preserve mastheads, newsrooms and jobs,” the Auckland-based company said, adding it did not believe the deal would hurt competition.

The media industry is facing a challenging period as the pandemic has caused companies to slash spending on advertising as they look to conserve cash to survive the crisis.

The New Zealand Commerce Commission and Nine Entertainment did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan; Additional reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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