December 18, 2017 / 8:08 PM / 10 months ago

NZME says New Zealand High Court upholds move to block purchase of Fairfax unit

(Reuters) - NZME Limited (NZM.NZ), the owner of New Zealand’s top-selling newspaper, said on Tuesday that the country’s High Court upheld the competition regulator’s decision to block its purchase of Fairfax Media Limited’s (FXJ.AX) New Zealand unit.

NZME and Fairfax Media said in separate statements that they would review the full judgment when it was released. NZME also said it would look at the option to appeal the decision, when the judgment is released.

The appeal by NZME and Fairfax to the High Court was heard in October after the Commerce Commission barred the deal in early May, after considering it for almost a year.

The regulator’s chairman said at the time the deal would concentrate media ownership and influence to an “unprecedented extent” for a well-established modern liberal democracy.

Under the proposed deal, the owner of the New Zealand Herald would have paid NZ$55 million ($38.47 million) for Fairfax’s New Zealand operations and issued new shares to allow Fairfax to hold a 41 percent stake in NZME.

Both firms have been facing rising competition for advertising dollars from online peers like Google (GOOGL.O) and Facebook (FB.O).

Combining the assets would have helped to cut costs by up to NZ$200 million over five years, the two companies had said.

Fairfax Media’s chief executive Greg Hywood termed the High Court’s decision as “disappointing”, in a separate statement.

In the press summary of the verdict, the High Court said that the “inadequacies in the process adopted by the Commission” which had been challenged by NZME and Fairfax were dismissed.

The court indicated that the Commerce Commission is entitled to seek costs.

Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Editing by Edmund Blair

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