Competition Watchdog Passes Népszabadság Deal

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Hungary’s Competition Office overruled its earlier position and approved B.V. Tabora, a Dutch subsidiary of Swiss publisher Ringier, to exercise its majority ownership rights at Népszabadság, Hungary’s largest daily.

In 2003 Tabora bought 17.7% in Népszabadság Publishing Rt., the company publishing the broadsheet daily of the same name, from Germany’s Bertelsmann group, increasing its stake to 67.6%. In the first ruling, the Competition Office (GVH) found that the deal could hurt competition on the media market, because Ringier was also majority owner of another political daily, Magyar Hírlap. Ringier and Népszabadság Publishing appealed the GVH’s ruling, and the Budapest Metropolitan Court ordered the competition authority to conduct a new investigation in the case.

In the second round, GVH changed its original ruling because in the meantime Ringier sold its ownership in Magyar Hírlap, ending the monopoly situation that could have hurt the market of political dailies. However, the Ringier group could remain in a monopolistic situation in the advertising market, since it also owns market leading tabloid Blikk and top selling sports daily Nemzeti Sport. Thus the Competition Office ruled that Ringier should handle the advertising activities of all its dailies through separate companies, which cannot approach advertisers in concert, for at least a year. The GVH also ruled that the ad rates of Népszabadság cannot exceed the market average for two years.