Fish4 dismisses conflict over Freeserve Auctions

Fish4 Limited, the classified ad network owned by a consortium of local newspaper groups, insists that the decision by one of its members to invest in Freeserve Auctions will not undermine the future plans of the group.

Newsquest, which owns 20 per cent of Fish4 Limited, announced on Monday that it is to take a minority stake in Freeserve Auctions. It will acquire a 9.9 per cent stake in the auction service in return for £10m-worth of advertising support in its titles over three years and £2m in cash.

The newspaper group’s existing AuctionHunter service will be incorporated in the Freeserve Auction brand.

But despite the possible overlap of goods which could be up for sale or auction on Newsquest-backed Internet services, Fish4 chief executive Jonathan Turpin says there is no conflict between Newsquest’s stakes in Fish4 and Freeserve Auctions.

“It’s for shareholders to maximise their value across the online market, and we have a very strong commitment from Newsquest,” he says.

Newsquest’s move represents an effective expansion in the equity stake held by its owner, US group Gannett, in one of the UK’s leading online auction sites. Gannett is already a major investor in Auctions.com, and will hold an 18 per cent share of the Freeserve Auctions service after the Newsquest deal.

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