Canada's competition watchdog said it will not take further action on conspiracy allegations surrounding a deal between Postmedia and Torstar.
The Competition Bureau announced Thursday that it has closed its investigation into Postmedia Inc. and Torstar Corp.'s deal to swap 41 newspapers.
The deal, quickly followed by the closure of 36 of the papers, raised concerns it violated the Competition Act.
The regulator has been reviewing evidence since November 2017, including sending officers to search Toronto offices of Postmedia, Torstar and its Metroland Media Group subsidiary and examine six current or former Torstar workers under oath.
But the Competition Bureau said that no further action was warranted on Postmedia and Torstar's deal, which affected mostly community and daily newspapers in eastern and southern Ontario.
The regulator said in a statement it must find clear evidence of a price-fixing agreement or a deal to reduce the supply of a product or service before it can recommend prosecuting a case of criminal conspiracy.
Postmedia and Torstar said in separate statements that they welcomed the decision.
“From the outset, we have adamantly maintained that Postmedia has done nothing wrong and now, more than two years later, the Competition Bureau has closed the investigation,” said Postmedia CEO Andrew MacLeod.
“We are happy to have this matter and the associated pressure and cost behind us and look forward to continuing the important work of keeping Canadians informed with ambitious, trusted and high-quality journalism and delivering high-value and data-driven marketing solutions to businesses and advertisers.”
A Torstar spokesman said the bureau plays an important part in the Canadian economy, while MacLeod urged the agency “to apply its considerable resources to address the impacts of foreign digital monopolies on our industry and others in Canada.”
Torstar holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with subsidiaries of the Globe and Mail and Montreal's La Presse.