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Qatar in talks to fund takeover of UK media giant 

September 8, 2023 at 1:31 pm

View of the River Thames and the House of Commons, the British parliament, seen on March 22, 2017 in London, England [Ray Tang / Anadolu Agency]

In the latest development underscoring the Gulf’s burgeoning interest in the UK media sector, one of Britain’s multinational media companies, the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) has reportedly engaged in discussions with Qatari stakeholders to bolster a joint acquisition offer for Telegraph Media Group. This comes on the heels of previous attempts by interested bidders to secure financial endorsement from the oil-affluent Gulf nations.

DMGT, the proprietor of widely circulated dailies including the Daily Mail and Metro, is exploring additional capital avenues to back its bid for its media counterpart – a venture that may require an investment surpassing $623 million.

Read: Gulf money undermining independence of West’s universities

Earlier this year, the Telegraph Media Group fell under the control of Lloyds Banking Group after the Barclay family, which owed the bank upwards of $1.2 billion, lost its grip. The bank’s primary objective is to recuperate a maximum amount through this potential sale. Ever since there has been ongoing speculation as media magnates and competitor groups have engaged with Gulf investors, assessing the prospects of financial backing for this esteemed right-leaning publication.

“Over the past few years we have been approached and have had talks with a number of Middle Eastern investors who have shown an interest in participating in a bid for the Daily Telegraph,” Sean Walsh, a DMGT spokesperson is reported saying in the Financial Times.

Although Walsh affirmed that they’ve been in dialogue with several Middle Eastern entities expressing interest in the Daily Telegraph acquisition, he emphasised that, at this juncture, there exists no formal investor alliance, asserting that any future partnerships would only be forged if DMGT maintains predominant economic and equity control, ensuring the preservation of the broadsheet’s editorial sovereignty.

Read: Britain’s relationships in the Gulf are difficult, so caution must be the watchword

Simultaneously, murmurs in the media landscape suggest that Abu Dhabi’s RedBird IMI might also be contemplating a bid, but the firm remains tight-lipped on the matter.

The Barclay family reportedly sought backing from UAE-based patrons for their bid to reclaim the newspaper. This includes an alleged bid of over $748 million to Lloyds.

This unfolding saga highlights the Gulf’s growing stake in the UK’s media industry. Gulf ownership in UK publications include Saudi Arabia’s purchase of the Evening Standard and the Independent. Observers believe the UK government would likely embrace further media ownership from the Gulf, especially given the existing Gulf-rooted ownership patterns in other spheres like British football clubs.