Rupert Murdoch's News Limited has asked the competition watchdog for a private ruling on whether a sale of its Sunday Times newspaper to Seven West Media would breach competition laws.
The ruling is crucial because the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would need to approve any trade given it would deliver SWM - the publisher of _The West Australian _- seven-day-a-week newspaper dominance in Perth.
A spokeswoman for the ACCC confirmed News' approach, but said the commission had not yet decided whether to allow other parties to comment on the issue.
"The matter is not currently the subject of a public review," the spokeswoman said.
"If the ACCC decides a public review is required, details will be posted on the website."
News Limited declined to comment, but it is understood to have been given the all-clear for the sale by the ACCC.
The manoeuvring from the Sydney-based News comes as it prepares to split its Australian publishing arm from most of its media and TV assets. As part of that process, News is reviewing its loss-making operations and cutting costs.
Seven West Media executives declined to comment, because the company is in a so-called "blackout" commentary window before its first-half results on February 20.
However, it is unclear whether such a merger would deliver significant gains to SWM, which is undertaking its own review of costs amid an industry-wide weakness in advertising revenue, and given News is said to want a high price.