It is believed Mecom, the pan-European newspaper company led by former Mirror-boss David Montgomery, will conclude the drawn out bidding process for its Norwegian arm, Edda Media, in a board meeting today.
Rumours that moves were afoot to try to bring Edda Media, the Norwegian arm of Orkla Media, acquired by Mecom in 2006, back on Norwegian hands, have circulated in the country's media all year. In the last few weeks, it has become evident that the courting phase is drawing to an end, and Mecom's board may decide to enter into more formal sales negotiations with one of the interested parties. As reported a colleague of mine at Journalisten.no, A-pressen, the local newspaper group owned by Norway's Labour Union and Telenor, will conclude its due diligence process today, and Mecom's board is also expected to meet in London today.
Of the parties still vying for Edda, A-pressen is said to have offered roughly 2,3 - 2,5bn NOK for the entire group, Berner Gruppen, owners of Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet, a bit less, and Polaris Media about 600m NOK for Edda's North-western division. All parties are reported to have had access to a data room at Mecom's Norwegian lawyer, Thommessen, to scrutinize the financial health of the group mainly comprised of local and regional papers.
It has also been speculated that Polaris Media may team up with Berner Gruppen to submit a joint bid. Now, I guess an apology is due: I know many Mecom journalists and other Mecom followers read my blog as it has been, to my best knowledge, the only English news source consistently covering the company since the spring of 2006. However, I've refrained from blogging about it for some time, as it seemed pointless to repeat all the rumours circulating in Norwegian press this year.
And while we are on the issue of rumours: it has been put forward that the Alex Springer group may want to buy Mecom as a whole, a rumour vehemently denied by a spokesperson for the German group; and, alternatively, that they are keen to buy Mecom's stake in Rzeczpospolita, a rumour not so vehemently denied, but Truls Velgaard, the British company's Polish CEO who's recently taken over the day-to-day running of Edda Media, told me this was just loose speculations:
"There are no corresponding process in Poland to that taking place in Norway; Poland is not specifically defined as a sales object. The bidding process is furthest advances and most concrete in Norway. Mecom will consider selling certain other parts of its business, but not entire country divisions," he said.
In either case, divesting its Norwegian division may provide a welcome influx of cash for the highly geared pan-European media group, which has seen its share price plummet on the back of the financial crisis.
However, should Mecom decide to sell Edda to A-pressen, we can look forward to several new chapters in this colourful newspaper saga, as Norwegian media cross-ownership laws will demand high-level political negotiations for the acquisition to be approved.
Update 15:44 CET: its seems Mecom's board meeting is dragging out (link in Norwegian), the board is said to be discussing both the budget for 2009 and possible divestments, and could last until after LSE stops trading for the day.
Update 21:30 CET: looks like Norwegian journalists, both those employed by Edda and writing about the company, were waiting in vain for big news from London today: Velgaard, who attended today's board meeting, told employee representatives no decision on Edda was reached.
Montgomery may have to prepare for more talks with Norway's culture minister, Trond Giske (pictured here pouring the coffee) if Mecom's board opts for A-pressen's Edda bid.
(Photo courtesy of, and copyrighted to, my colleague Martin H. Jensen, who has allowed me to use it here for a beer)