UK government intends to review Telegraph takeover by UAE-backed fund | News

The UK government intends to intervene in the sale over worries the takeover could influence the newspaper’s operations.

The UK government has said it intends to review the proposed sale of the Telegraph Media Group to an Abu Dhabi-backed investment fund on public interest grounds.

The fund, RedBird IMI, announced on Monday that it was set to take control of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph sister newspapers and The Spectator magazine.

British Media Secretary Lucy Frazer expressed concerns in a letter to Redbird IMI, made public on Wednesday, about the potential for it to influence the operations of The Telegraph. She indicated her ministry wrote on Wednesday to various parties involved in the proposed deal “to inform them that I am ‘minded to’ issue a public interest intervention notice”.

This was motivated by “concerns I have that there may be public interest considerations… [that] warrant further investigation”, she said in a written statement to lawmakers.

Zucker said on Wednesday that RedBird IMI was fully committed to maintaining the existing editorial team of The Telegraph and The Spectator magazine.

The joint venture between US firm RedBird Capital and Abu Dhabi’s International Media Investments said it has agreed loans of around 1.2 billion pounds ($1.5bn) to take control of the parent company of the right-leaning titles.

The Telegraph group has been controlled by twin brothers Frederick and David Barclay for nearly two decades but has been put up for sale over unpaid debts.

Lender Bank of Scotland announced in June that it had appointed a receiver for its Bermuda-based holding company due to “debts being in default and with no sign they would be repaid”.

In its announcement, RedBird IMI said a 600-million pound ($748m) “package of loans” will fully repay the debts owed, allowing the media group to be taken out of receivership.

The joint venture added it also intends to exercise an option to convert a further “similar” sized loan – secured against The Telegraph and The Spectator titles – into equity.

RedBird Capital, run by former CNN president Jeff Zucker, would then run the publications “alone”, with IMI being “a passive investor only”, according to the fund.

But the plans have sparked concern among some lawmakers in the ruling Conservative party, which has long enjoyed a close ideological relationship with The Telegraph titles.

A small group of Tory MPs has urged the government to investigate the planned takeover, querying the wisdom of allowing sovereign wealth funds from overseas to buy national newspapers, the Financial Times reported.

In her statement, Frazer said the deal could be probed on public interest grounds specified in the Enterprise Act 2002, including the need for “accurate presentation of news” and “free expression of opinion” in newspapers.

“It is important to note that I have not taken a final decision on intervention at this stage,” she added, noting those involved had been invited to make “further representations” by 15:00 GMT on Thursday.

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