The government today said it was “minded” to intervene in the Daily Mail owner’s £50m takeover of the i newspaper.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) warned the deal, which was agreed with current i owner JPI Media in November, could raise public interest concerns.
Daily Mail and General Trust, which also owns Metro, at the time described the takeover as “both strategically and financially” compelling.
Chief executive Paul Zwillenberg insisted that the group will maintain the editorial independence of the i.
However, DCMS said the deal could negatively impact the need for a “sufficient plurality of views in newspapers”.
Despite the initial warning, culture secretary Nicky Morgan has not made a final decision on whether the government will intervene.
DMGT and JPI Media have until 13 January to provide further information in writing, and a final decision will be made in the week commencing 20 January.
The competition watchdog has already stepped in, serving an initial enforcement order while it reviews the merger.
The order, also known as a hold separate arrangement, means DMGT will be forced to run the i independently ahead of a potential competition probe.
The proposed deal ended months of speculation over the bidders for titles belonging to JPI Media, which was formed after a private equity-led rescue deal for Johnston Press last year.
While the i newspaper was considered the crown jewel in JPI’s stable of titles, a number of other newspapers including The Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman are still up for grabs.
Publishing group Reach in November said it had pulled out of the race for some of JPI’s titles. However, rival Newsquest is still believed to be interested in a deal.