June 5, 2020 / 7:27 AM / a month ago

Australia's AAP news agency lives on after finding buyers

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Associated Press (AAP) said on Friday it expects to be sold to a group of philanthropic investors, a reprieve for the news agency that had been facing closure, and for the industry, after a run of layoffs as advertising dwindles.

AAP had planned to close this month after 85 years but said it now expected to stay in business, albeit with fewer staff, after it and a group of investors agreed on a sale for an undisclosed sum.

“After months of discussions with various parties, it appears we have been able to secure a new home for AAP’s legacy of trusted news,” AAP chief executive Bruce Davidson said in a statement.

AAP said the buyers included Peter Tonagh, a former chief executive of the Australian division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, and unidentified philanthropists and “impact investors”.

The sale is good news for an industry hit by widespread layoffs in recent months as restrictions on movement to contain the novel coronavirus batter the retail sector, cutting advertising revenue that media companies rely on.

News Corp’s Australian arm said last week it would stop printing more than 100 newspapers, while the Australian edition of Buzzfeed News and ViacomCBS Inc owned free-to-air broadcaster Ten Network shut down their news sites.

AAP’s buyers said they wanted to ensure its long-term survival.

“We live in a time where trusted, unbiased news is more important than ever,” Tonagh said in the statement.

“AAP has always delivered on that and we are committed to seeing that continue into the future.”

Tonagh said the buyers would hire up to 90 AAP staff, including up to 75 editorial staff, about half its workforce.

Before it called in administrators in March, AAP’s major shareholders included News Corp and rival newspaper publisher Nine Entertainment Holdings Co Ltd.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Robert Birsel

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