Minister for Communications Denis Naughten was due to rule on contentious takeover
In a statement, the two companies confirmed they were walking away from the proposed €4 million takeover.
Celtic Media publishes the Westmeath Independent, Westmeath Examiner, Anglo Celt, Meath Chronicle and Connaught Telegraph newspapers, along with a number of freesheets.
“Following discussions, INM and Celtic Media Newspapers Ltd have taken a decision to move forward on a separate footing,” the two companies said in a joint statement.
The acquisition of Celtic Media by INM would have increased its share of provincial newspaper titles from 13 to 20. It was opposed by the NUJ on the grounds that it would weaken media diversity in Ireland.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) was charged in January with conducting a full media merger examination of INM’s deal to buy Celtic Media. It reported to the minister on May 9th and he has 20 working days to consider the matter. Those 20 working days are up on June 8th.
The involvement of the broadcasting regulator in a proposed deal between two newspaper groups was triggered under cross-media ownership regulations because INM’s biggest shareholder is Denis O’Brien, who owns the radio group Communicorp.
NUJ acting general secretary Seamus Dooley expressed surprise at the last-minute decision by both companies to walk away from the deal.
However, he added: “The proposed acquisition, if approved, would have further undermined media diversity in Ireland.”
Mr Dooley said he worked with Celtic Media and its chief executive, Frank Mulrennan, on the terms of a management buyout of the company in June 2012.
Viable business plan
He said the NUJ had worked closely with management and staff to put a viable business plan in place to secure the future of the newspapers, which employ 98 staff.
“Staff embraced change and accepted pay cuts in order to protect the company. We opposed the INM acquisition of the titles for the same reason that we welcomed the original management buyout – the protection of media diversity. The issues raised by the BAI report are of fundamental importance and we call on Mr Naughten to publish the report regardless of the decision of the parties.”