Australia’s newly-relaxed media ownership laws are likely to permit the country’s two largest magazine publishers to merge, even though Bauer Media Australia (formerly ACP Magazines) and Pacific Magazines (owned by Kerry Stokes’s TV-digital-print Seven West group) have a combined market share of more than 80%. That’s how far magazines have slipped down the media ladder even in a country which once had the largest pro rata circulations among English-speaking countries. Nobody in Australia, it seems, is now worried about a magazines monopoly. Cue Bauer and Pacific which are known to have held talks about a potential joint venture for ‘back end’ services including merchandising, subscriptions and procurement – broadly on the lines of that concluded a few years ago in the US between Hearst and Conde Nast. But Nine Entertainment Company’s recent audacious swoop on Fairfax Media – to create the country’s largest multi-media group (by far) – has prompted suggestions that the two magazine groups could now combine, presumably in a low-cash acquisition by Bauer. The CEO of Bauer in Australia and New Zealand (which publishes many of the country’s best-known magazines and digital services including Australian Women’s Weekly, Gourmet Traveller, Woman’s Day, and Cosmopolitan) is Paul Dykzeul. Like his predecessor, he was formerly also at Pacific Magazines (publisher of Marie Claire, Better Homes & Gardens, InStyle, and New Idea) so is in a perfect place to plan a ‘merger’. The Bauer Media Group, based in Hamburg, owns 600 magazine-centric brands and 50 radio and TV stations across 17 countries. After decades of being primarily a magazine publisher, the company has been slimming down recently and, instead, investing in radio especially in the UK and Europe, where it is now the largest operator. Bauer has broadcasting ambitions in Australia and Fairfax’s 54% share of the Macquarie radio group may be up for sale in 2019, after the Nine deal completes. But a big new Bauer investment would have to wait for some earnings stability in its Sydney-based group whose revenues are way off the forecasts when it bought the business in 2013. A deal with Pacific Magazines might just sort it.