Dominant New Zealand news publishers NZME and Fairfax New Zealand will have their 10 days in court in October as they seek to overturn the Commerce Commission's rejection of a planned merger they say is needed to create a sustainable domestic media group.
NZME director Peter Cullinane, filling in for chairman John Anderson, told shareholders at today's annual meeting in Auckland that a 10-day hearing has been set down for October 16 in the High Court to appeal the regulator's decision last month.
Fairfax and NZME filed their appeal on May 26, claiming the regulator was wrong in fact and in law in rejecting their planned merger.
The commission turned down the merger on the grounds that the estimated financial benefit from creating a larger, merged entity to combat global competitors for advertising revenue, such as Google and Facebook, wasn't enough to outweigh the detriments of reduced media 'plurality'.
Russell McVeagh has retained David Goddard QC to represent the media companies, having successfully argued against opposition to the Commerce Commission's authorisation of a national wool scouring monopoly.
That decision became part of the backbone of the commission's decision to decline the NZME/Fairfax proposal.
NZME chief executive Michael Boggs told shareholders the two companies are sharing the cost of the appeal, which he said was "in the best interests of NZME and its shareholders" when weighed up against the potential benefits from the merger, which are estimated to be between $36.8 million and $55.7 million a year.
"We believe the transaction would be positive for New Zealand, our employees and shareholders by enhancing the competitiveness of locally produced content for our news, sport and entertainment markets," Mr Boggs said.
NZME shares rose 2.4 per cent to 84 cents, having gained 39 per cent so far this year.