Judge Rules Government Missed Deadline On Investigation Of Independent and Evening Standard Shares Sale

A judge has ruled that the Government missed a key deadline in its attempt to investigate the sale of shares in the companies which own the London Evening Standard and the Independent to a Saudi investor.

The Government had issued a public interest intervention notice after Lebedev Holdings Ltd and the Independent Digital News and Media Ltd sold shares to a Saudi investor and a company owned in part by a bank based in Saudi Arabia.

The publishers made an application to the Competition Appeal Tribunal contending the PIIN was issued after the statutory time-limit, and that it sets a time period for reports from the CMA and Ofcom which means that no reference under Phase 2 could be made because that would be past the statutory deadline for a reference.

The tribunal dismissed the first part of the application, but upheld the second part of it.  

The judgment said: “In light of its decision above, the Tribunal did not think it appropriate to quash the PIIN but made a declaration that the time limit for the Secretary of State to make a reference under section 45 EA 02 expired on 1 July 2019.”