SYDNEY (AFP) - Plans to close Australia's only national newswire were put on hold Thursday (March 19) after management was blindsided by offers to buy the company.
Australian Associated Press (AAP) announced it was closing last month but, in an email to staff, management told employees Thursday those plans had been paused while they considered offers to buy the news provider from several suitors.
"This development was not expected by management, the AAP Board or the AAP shareholders," AAP chief executive Bruce Davidson said in the email.
Company officials declined to identify the suitors, citing confidentiality agreements.
Last month, around 180 staff were told the company would be wound up after its main shareholders, Mr Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and broadcasting and newspaper group Nine Entertainment, determined the wire was "no longer viable".
The surprise decision to close the wire stunned media in Australia and elsewhere and fuelled concerns about the loss of independent news coverage in a country with one of the most concentrated media industries of any democracy.
Despite several staff already being told they would be out of a job by late March, steps to close the company by June had now been paused and redundancies would be postponed for at least two weeks.
"I understand that this development creates more uncertainty for all of you, and I apologise for adding yet another level of complexity in this difficult time," Mr Davidson said.
"We all should be cautious: nothing may come of these discussions and the interested parties may not be qualified to run a news organisation," he said.
Originally founded in 1935 by media baron Keith Murdoch, Mr Rupert Murdoch's father, AAP became a central source of Australian news for major outlets in Australia and overseas.
But speculation about the wire's future has persisted in recent years, following several major staff cutbacks and the closure of the company's New Zealand arm in 2018.
The wire's current owners - Nine, News Corp Australia, The West Australian and Australian Community Media - are expected to take two to three weeks to weigh up the offers to buy the AAP news operation and related businesses.