UK weighs changes in law to prevent takeover of the Telegraph by UAE-backed group

12 Mar 2024

UK weighs changes in law to prevent takeover of the Telegraph by UAE-backed group

The British government is reported to be weighing legislative remedies to the possible takeover of the Telegraph Media Group by UAE-backed investor RedBird IMI, amidst political and professional opposition to the change of guard.

If the deal goes through, the Telegraph and its sister publication, the Spectator magazine, will fall into the hands of RedBird IMI, which is backed by UAE Vice President Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

People across the social spectrum, including politicians, journalists and even former officials of state spy agency, have raised fears that such takeover of a British media house could impair press freedom and pose challenge to its democracy by bringing in foreign influence in news reporting.

The Conservative Party government led by Rishi Sunak is reported to be weighing new measures that empower ministers to prevent a foreign state from owning a British news organisation.

Reports have pointed to the possibility of government introducing amendments to legislations like the 2002 Enterprise Act, in order to gain powers to avert such takeovers.

UK’s competition and media regulators have submitted their reports, the contents of which have not yet been revealed. It is up to media secretary Lucy Frazer to decide whether to block the deal or let it proceed.

Frazer could also order a wider investigation into the deal that could prevent the takeover for months or even years.

Amidst rising opposition to the deal, aTelegraph also said Rupert Murdoch and the owner of The Daily Mail are in talks about a potential joint takeover of the media house jointly with UAE-backed RedBird IMI.

IMI, a state-owned Abu Dhabi fund, is reported to be providing 75 per cent of the £1.2 billion needed to buy The Telegraph and The Spectator.

Telegraph, a broadsheet newspaper, saw its circulation decline from a high of 1.4 million in 1980 to 3.6 lakh in 2018 and by 80 per cent to 2.8 lakh in 2019, forcing it to withdraw from newspaper circulation audits.

Various sovereign wealth funds headed by Sheikh Mansour already hold premium British assets, including and owns Premier League soccer club Manchester City.

While there is no law to prohibit foreign ownership of UK businesses, lawmakers fear the prospect of a foreign government owning the 160-year-old newspaper.

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