UK bars Abu Dhabi-backed group from acquiring Telegraph, pending review

Credit: REUTERS/ANNA GORDON

LONDON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Britain's government on Friday blocked an Abu Dhabi-backed group from taking ownership of the media group that owns the Telegraph newspaper while its takeover bid is scrutinised by regulators over freedom of expression concerns.

The government intervened in the planned deal on Thursday when it asked regulators to examine the deal.

On Friday, culture and media minister Lucy Frazer set out an enforcement order preventing any transfer of ownership of the Telegraph Media Group without her permission and also stopping any changes of its structure or senior editorial staff.

Earlier, Britain's communications regulator Ofcom published an invitation for comments on the proposed deal by Dec. 13.

As well as the right-leaning Telegraph newspaper, the group owns the Spectator magazine. They are up for sale after Lloyds Banking Group in June seized control following a long-running dispute with owners, the Barclay family.

RedBird IMI is led by former CNN executive Jeff Zucker and is backed by Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

A senior editor at the Telegraph said she was confident that the British government would move to block the deal because of the concerns about freedom of expression.

"We can trust that they will come up with the right conclusions because it is obvious to all of us that a newspaper owned by a Gulf state will face questions surrounding freedom of expression," Telegraph Associate Editor Camilla Tominey wrote in a column in the newspaper.

She also said she had concerns about the treatment of women in the UAE.

"It doesn't pass the sniff test because many believe – correctly in my view – that the UAE falls short of Western standards and values," Tominey said.

(Writing by William Schomberg, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

((william.schomberg@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 7778; Reuters Messaging: william.schomberg.reuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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