UK Government raises concerns over Saudi newspaper investment

Secretary of State intervenes in investment proposals for Lebedev Holdings and Independent Digital News and Media
UK Government raises concerns over Saudi newspaper investment
By Gavin Gibbon
Sun 16 Jun 2019 10:21 AM

Plans by a Saudi investor to buy stakes in two British newspapers are being investigated by the UK Government.

The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Jeremy Wright has intervened in investment proposals for Lebedev Holdings and Independent Digital News and Media – parent companies of the Evening Standard and The Independent

The move comes amid concerns about an investor with links to the government of Saudi Arabia.

The Financial Times reported in February that a Saudi investor named Sultan Mohamed Abuljadayel had purchased 30 percent of Lebedev Holdings, which is majority-owned by Russian Evgeny Lebedev.

Abuljadayel reportedly also purchased a 30 percent stake in The Independent, another paper that Lebedev controls, in 2017.

Wright cited the national security section of the Enterprise Act 2002, which stipulates “the need for (a) accurate presentation of news; and (b) free expression of opinion” in newspapers.

“It is important to note that I have not taken a final decision on intervention at this stage. In line with the statutory guidance on media mergers, the ‘minded to’ letter invites further representations in writing from the parties and gives them until 5pm on Monday 17 June to respond," he said. 

"I plan to make my final decision, which needs to be made on a quasi-judicial basis, on whether to issue an Intervention Notice no later than week commencing 24 June," he added. 

Should an intervention notice be issued, the next stage would be for Ofcom to assess and report on the public interest concerns and for the Competition and Markets Authority to assess and report on whether a relevant merger situation has been created and any impact this may have on competition.

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