UOKiK wants court to revoke suspension of Polska Press takeover by Orlen
Polish competition watchdog UOKiK denounced on Tuesday a court's decision to suspend its approval of state-run refiner PKN Orlen's takeover of newspaper publisher Polska Press, thereby temporarily blocking the deal which had been slammed by the opposition.
Opposition political parties have said the deal is part of a wider effort by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to take more control of the media. The office of Human Rights Commissioner Adam Bodnar, a vocal government critic, who appealed against UOKiK's decision, said on Monday it had been informed by the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection that the approval had been suspended. In the ruling published on Tuesday on UOKiK's website, the court said that at this stage, it could not be judged whether the takeover would significantly limit competition. It said disregarding the ombudsman's appeal would lead to the company implementing a decision "which should not take place in a democratic state of law" as it had been objected by an official body. UOKiK called the court's decision a "disturbing precedent" and said it would ask the court to speed up its ruling on the ombudsman's appeal. "We are currently analysing further legal steps, including the possibility of revoking the court's decision," UOKiK said in a statement. PiS lawmakers have said foreign media companies have too much influence in Poland, while PKN Orlen, in which the state holds a 27.52% stake, said the deal would be purely a business transaction. "The (court's) verdict is astonishing," State Assets Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin told public radio. "...The ombudsman did not see anything bad in the fact that these media remained in the hands of a foreign publisher, who was not necessarily interested in reliably informing our citizens about all the aspects of social or political life. The problem is when this media segment is being taken over by a Polish company, which is only partly controlled by the government," Sasin said. On Tuesday, PKN Orlen Chief Executive Daniel Obajtek, said on Twitter there were "no legal grounds" for stopping the transaction. The refiner announced its plans to buy Polska Press in December. The media group publishes 20 regional dailies, about 100 local weeklies, several magazines and Naszemiasto.pl, a free city newspaper, according to its website. The takeover would add to a list of M&A deals announced by PKN Orlen under the management of Obajtek, who has been publicly praised by PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński.
Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Reuters
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