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Competition Bureau conducts searches at media offices

Officials from the federal Competition Bureau conducted searches Monday at Torstar corporate offices as part of its ongoing review of a transaction between Torstar and Postmedia Network Inc. involving the sale and purchase of 41 daily and community newspapers.

Torstar is co-operating fully with the review, the company said in a statement, adding that it had already told the bureau it would voluntarily provide additional company documents relating to the transaction. It also said it does not believe it has contravened the Competition Act.

A Competition Bureau spokesperson said soon after the transaction was announced that a review would take place. Such reviews are undertaken to determine if the deal would result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition.

Competition Bureau officials also conducted a search Monday at Postmedia’s headquarters in Toronto. Postmedia said in a press release that it “is strongly of the view that there has been no contravention” of the federal act.

John Pecman, commissioner of competition, issued a statement Monday saying he could confirm that the bureau is gathering evidence to determine if there has been any violation of the Competition Act.

But he added there is “no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time and no charges have been laid.” Pecman said all investigations and inquiries are conducted confidentially and he could not comment further.

Torstar and Postmedia announced on Nov. 27 that they had completed the deal involving a number of community and daily newspapers. As part of the transaction, Torstar acquired eight weekly community publications and seven daily community newspapers located in Ontario. As well, Torstar acquired the free dailies 24 Hours Toronto and 24 Hours Vancouver.

Torstar sold 22 weekly community newspapers in eastern and southern Ontario and the Metro Winnipeg and Metro Ottawa free daily publications to Postmedia.

After the transaction was completed, Torstar closed three of the daily newspapers it had acquired and the eight community publications and two free dailies. Torstar continues to operate four daily newspapers acquired from Postmedia, including the Niagara Falls Review, Peterborough Examiner, St. Catharines Standard and Welland Tribune.

With a file from The Canadian Press