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NZX sells Farmers Weekly to former owners

NZX sells Farmers Weekly to former owners Dean and Cushla Williamson for undisclosed sum

By Paul McBeth

May 16 (BusinessDesk) - NZX has sold its rural newspaper Farmers Weekly to its former owners Dean and Cushla Williamson for an undisclosed sum, with the new entity taking on all 15 staff.

Feilding-based agri-publisher GlobalHQ has acquired the weekly paper as the stock market operator reshapes its business to focus on developing its core market operations. The Williamsons sold the paper to NZX in 2009, and the deal mirrors a similar transaction in 2016 when NZX sold farm management magazines Country-Wide and New Zealand Dairy Exporter to its former head of agri Tony Leggat, who created Country Wide Publications with Dean Williamson.

"The NZX team have grown the Farmers Weekly brand well, adding more market information, and developing the online offering including electronic newsletters and video," Dean Williamson said in a statement. "There is a good team in place and I look forward to working with them to develop the newspaper, and keep delivering information the rural sector needs, using traditional and new channels - it’s an exciting time to be in media."

NZX yesterday signalled the sale was imminent after saying it received a second bid for the publication. Wellington-based NZX signed a non-binding sale agreement in February, which it said would be at no gain or loss to the company, and while it didn't disclose the value of the deal its accounts showed the agri division had $1.98 million of assets held for sale as at Dec. 31.

The stock market operator's latest monthly update showed Farmers Weekly paid ad page equivalents climbed 6.8 percent to 423 in the four months ended April 30 from a year earlier. The paper is delivered to 79,000 households, NZX's website said.

Since then, Fairfax Media's New Zealand unit Stuff has put its suite of agricultural magazines up for sale as it shrinks its domestic print line to focus on developing a profitable online business. Dean Williamson has been Stuff's agribrand manager since 2013, and is NZFarmer's contact on the media company's website. That weekly magazine has 133,000 weekly readers.

The stock market operator is in the process of a strategic review, emphasising the importance of its core markets business and seeking ways to more closely link its other divisions to the trading platform.

Chief executive Mark Peterson said the sale of the publication supported that plan.

"Farmers Weekly is a well-established New Zealand publication which plays a vital role in updating the farming community and we are pleased all 15 staff members will transition with the sale of the business," Peterson said. "Dean and Cushla Williamson are passionate rural New Zealanders and the newspaper will enter an exciting new chapter under their leadership."

NZX shares last traded at $1.10 and have edged up 0.9 percent over the past 12 months.

(BusinessDesk)

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