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In the traditional post-Christmas rush of interest in genealogy, will ITV (LSE: ITV) finally get to sell Friends Reunited to Findmypast.com operator Brightsolid as agreed in August – or will it be nobbled by another Competition Commission ruling?
The commission, which last year angered ITV by prohibiting its Kangaroo VOD JV, opened a consultation on the £25 million takeover in November, after the Office of Fair Trading said the reduction of three main UK genealogy players to two could harm choice.
With two weeks to the consultation’s deadline, seven out of 12 respondents from the sector say they the deal would be good for the industry.
The National Archives (for England and Wales) sums it up by saying it “would make for much stronger competition with Ancestry, which dominates the market”. Three individual genealogists opposed the takeover.
The Generations Network‘s Ancestry.co.uk, which has been advertising heavily following Christmas, declared itself “broadly neutral” in its submission – but went on to warn “adverse effects could arise form access to content that is currently controlled by Brightsolid”. It said the deal “would reduce the competition for tenders to digitse records”.
Brightsolid wants Friends Reunited for its Genes Reunited site, which has the 1911 census and other records. ITV certainly needs to make the £25 million sale, even if it’s a significant loss on the for £170 million for which it bought Friends five years ago. Ancestry.co.uk helpfully tells the Competition Commission that, if the deal was blocked, ITV “could continue to pursue a sale” to private equity or other buyers or “might decide to reinvigorate the social network”. But neither option is going to be as lucrative as that sale income.