Lord Rothermere’s consortium, among others, is finalising its lineup in preparation for the upcoming first round of bidding later this month.
A British media tycoon has reportedly stepped away from plans to go ahead with a Qatari investment to acquire the Telegraph Media Group amid speculations that the United Kingdom government would resist investors from the region, the Financial Times reported.
Jonathan Harold Esmond Vere Harmsworth’s Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) previously engaged in discussions with a Qatari investment group regarding the possibility of acquiring a small share in the Daily Telegraph’s ownership as part of his bid to take over the conservative national newspaper.
However, the report said the company is now drawing up a strategy to finance its bid independently, staying away from external investors, sources privy to the situation detailed.
Media expert Claire Enders highlighted the potential struggle for bidders backed by Middle Eastern funds to gain UK government approval, particularly as they eye ownership of a “politically” significant newspaper.
Bidders seeking backing from the Middle East could “struggle to get the UK government comfortable with them as owners of a politically important newspaper,” Enders said.
British bank Lloyds initiated the sale of the Telegraph and the Spectator magazine following their assumption of control from the Barclay family earlier this summer. Potential investors have recently signed confidentiality agreements in anticipation of information packs being made available.
Lord Rothermere’s consortium, among others, is finalising its lineup in preparation for the imminent first round of bidding later this month.
DMGT intends to maintain the Telegraph’s editorial independence, potentially housing it in a separate entity, dialing down on concerns about consolidating ownership of two right-leaning newspapers, the report said.
The group includes Telegraph properties The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Telegraph.co.uk, The Telegraph Magazine and the Telegraph app. The conservative national paper is currently the sixth most popular news websites in the UK.
Previously confirming talks with Middle Eastern investors interested in participating in the Telegraph bid, Lord Rothermere’s group emphasised their intent to shoulder the majority of economic risk and retain control crucial for safeguarding the newspaper’s editorial autonomy.
Lord Rothermere’s group confirmed in September it had “been approached and had talks with a number of Middle Eastern investors who have shown an interest in participating in a bid for the Daily Telegraph.”
Meanwhile, DMGT looks to leverage the Telegraph’s potential abroad, particularly in the United States, as it has done with the Daily Mail, including overseeing print advertising sales for the Telegraph.
DMGT sees a “strong potential to scale the Telegraph abroad, particularly in the US, just as we have very successfully done with the Mail”, a spokesperson previously said.
Aside from Qatari interest, inquiries from Saudi and other Middle Eastern wealth funds have surfaced.
The Barclay family, aiming to regain control, have put forward a recent £1 billion offer backed by a member of the Emirati royal family and the First Abu Dhabi Bank, the report said.
However, speculations around potential Abu Dhabi-backed bids facing government scrutiny through a public interest intervention notice have also arisen. A spokesperson for the Barclay family claimed that their proposals focus on resolving outstanding loans, arguing against a need for such an intervention.
The Telegraph bidding includes various contenders such as hedge fund head Sir Paul Marshall, Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský, and Axel Springer, all whom have expressed their interest.
Formerly linked to a potential bid, Sir William Lewis, who recently assumed leadership at the Washington Post, is now less likely to pursue the Telegraph.