UK publisher buys Catchpole

A British media firm has bought out the management services company behind 7DAYS, the free tabloid newspaper based in Dubai.

Newspapers roll off the press in Dubai. Catchpole Communications provides circulation and management services for 7DAYS.
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The owner of the UK's Daily Mail newspaper has bought out the management services company behind 7DAYS, a free tabloid newspaper based in Dubai.

The Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT), which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, has purchased the 40 per cent of Catchpole Communications it did not own, acquiring the company outright.

Catchpole provides circulation and management services for 7DAYS, which is distributed free in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In 2006, DMGT bought a 60 per cent stake in Catchpole for a reported US$7.2 million (Dh26.4m). That deal came with the option for the group to increase its investment over the following years.

DMGT, through its unit Associated Metro Holdings, recently raised its stake in Catchpole to 100 per cent.

Mark Rix, the chief executive of 7DAYS and Catchpole Communications, confirmed that the deal had been completed.

"The further investment in 7DAYS by Daily Mail & General Trust Plc is a clear indication of this international group's belief in the current and future potential of the United Arab Emirates and wider GCC and Mena region," said Mr Rix.

Steve Auckland, who ran DMGT's free-newspaper division Metro for eight years, and who has recently been appointed the head of the group's regional newspaper operation Northcliffe Media, confirmed that DMGT had "taken out the remaining share" in Catchpole.

The 40 per cent stake was bought for "an undisclosed sum", Mr Auckland said.

The stake was reportedly sold to DMGT by Shezan Amiji, who founded 7DAYS in 2004. Mr Amiji could not be reached for comment.

When DMGT first invested in Catchpole, 7DAYS was said to have recorded revenue of $5.1m in 2005. Yet7DAYS, like many newspapers in the region, has been hit by the general advertising downturn, including the withdrawal of advertising revenue by property companies.

7DAYS has embraced digital publishing in recent years, launching editions for iPhone and BlackBerry handsets. However, during Ramadan last year, it reduced the frequency of its print edition from every weekday to weekly because of falling advertising revenue.

"Freesheet" tabloid newspapers such as 7DAYS have been successful globally, said Dr Matt Duffy, an assistant professor in new media and journalism at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.

"Free tabloid publications are popular throughout the world - they appeal to a demographic that is generally hard to reach with the paid-for press," Mr Duffy said.

He added that such publications had been "very successful", despite the decline of the traditional press.

However, international acquisitions of newspaper-related companies in the Gulf region are rare, said Mr Duffy. "It's still a relatively small market," he said. "How many newspapers are out there to buy?"