Oriental Press Group's The Sun will halve its price to $3 from today in a move that highlights intensifying competition among Chinese-language newspapers and the growing threat of the booming free paper business. On its front page yesterday, the daily announced its price would be cut from $6 to celebrate its seventh anniversary next year. 'We've been hearing rumours about the price cut for over two weeks,' a source close to rival publisher Next Media said. Next, which publishes Apple Daily, Hong Kong's second highest circulation newspaper after Oriental Daily News, stressed that it would not follow suit as it targeted a different market. 'Our only rival is Oriental Daily News. We are only concerned that The Sun's lower price will affect the circulation of Oriental Daily News and prompt another round of price cuts by the newspaper,' the source added. According to media agents, the daily circulation of The Sun is about 100,000 copies while Oriental Daily News claims to sell 400,000 a day. Apple Daily said its audited daily circulation, based on data by the Hong Kong Audit Bureau of Circulation, was 343,000 copies in the second half of last year. Clement So York-kee, director of Chinese University's school of journalism and communication, said he did not believe the move would lead to an all-out price war, although the recent launch of several free sheets might have had a role in the pricing decision. He pointed out the pressure to slash prices would be greater on rivals with smaller circulations and, as a result, only a few dailies - if any - would follow suit. 'If it were Oriental Daily News or Apple Daily cutting their prices, a large-scale price war would break out,' Mr So said. In July, Sing Tao's Headline Daily and real estate agent mogul Shih Wing-ching's am730 started distribution and boasted an initial daily circulation of 500,000 and 260,000 copies respectively. About 350,000 copies of incumbent free sheet Metro are handed out at Mass Transit Railway stations, meaning a total of roughly 1 million free dailies are in circulation every weekday. The Express Post Sunday paper, launched on September 17, is the latest free sheet to hit the streets. 'The free dailies that launched this summer had a big impact on The Sun's circulation,' a media manager with media buying company Mindshare Hong Kong said. When it was launched in March 1999, The Sun priced itself at an aggressive $2, forcing most rivals to halve their prices. The war only lasted a few months, but six Chinese-language newspapers closed.