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Germany’s WAZ Media Group has sold its three Macedonian newspapers to Orka, a local company owned by Orce Kamcev, WAZ said on Monday.
Photo by: Mpdus
The three dailies, Dnevnik, Utrinski Vesnik and Vest, which hold a considerable share of the newspaper market, were the only ones in the country owned by a big international media company.
Describing the sale as part of the company’s plan to downsize operations in Southeast Europe, WAZ did not disclose the sale price of the newspapers.
In 2010, WAZ's director, Bodo Hombach, announced that WAZ intended to withdraw from the Balkans.
That year WAZ sold some of its main newpapers in Romania and Bulgaria. In Serbia, where the company ran into conflict with the government, WAZ also threatened to pull out but has not yet done so.
The WAZ group entered Macedonia in 2003. At the time it was widely believed that its entry would result in a marked rise in the quality of the media in the country.
Its retreat comes amid growing concerns about the level of media freedom in the country.
WAZ's strongest local competitor, a media group that owned three dailies and A1 TV, the country's most-watched television channel, was forced to close them all this summer.
The closures were related to owner Velija Ramkovski's tax problems. Authorities say he owes the state millions in back taxes.
The media in question have claimed they were deliberately targeted by the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski for their critical views. Ramkovski is currently on trial for alleged financial crimes.
Orka's chair and owner, Orce Kamcev, is a prominent Macedonian businessman. His holding owns a chain of sports equipment stores and boutiques, a factory for clothes production as well as a medical clinic in Skopje.
Managing director Bodo Hombach is preparing to step down but this is unlikely to affect WAZ's plan to withdraw from the Balkans.
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