Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Leveson (lack of) effect on share prices

Being the sad type of person I am, I thought I would go and have a look at what happened to the share prices of listed media companies yesterday, The Day The Free Press Died.

I'm not saying that this tells us anything particularly insightful, but I thought it was worth a look. First up Daily Mail & General Trust, owner of the paper that backed Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. Its share price...err...went up. (NB - I'm linking to 5-day views)

What about Trinity Mirror? Its share price went down initially, then recovered a bit (down about 10% on the day). But if we look back there was a far steeper drop on the 14th - the morning the hacking arrests were announced (and I wonder if the Monday fall wasn't a bit of an overspill, given the potential for more cases as revealed in the 'supergrass' story that the Indy reported).

I also looked at two non-UK companies with big UK operations - Thomson Reuters was basically unchanged, and News Corp was up a bit

Again, I wouldn't read much into this, for all the usual reasons about finding anything you want in share price movements. I think all we can safely say is that investors in Trinity Mirror were spooked by the hacking arrests. But it doesn't obviously look like investors in media companies are (yet?) worried about the impact that the Leveson deal will have on their investments.

Going a bit further, we cannot assume that this means a lot in terms of whether we have a free press or not. After all, some investors in media companies might prefer a muzzled press, as it might be less likely to end up facing some or other form of retribution, with knock on financial effects. Where this leaves people who argue that the only only guarantee of editorial independence is profit is a another question... 

Still, the immediate impact of Leveson on investors' assessments of media companies may be not much at all.

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