The city's free newspaper market may enter a new era of competition in the near future as the publisher of Ming Pao Daily News is looking to acquire Metro Daily, sources told Media Eye yesterday. The news comes amid talk that the chief executive of Metro International, the parent of Metro, was in Hong Kong this week and was in talks with Ming Pao on the possible deal. Sources said both parties were expected to close the deal soon. Metro chief executive Peter Kuo and senior officials at Ming Pao could not be reached for comment. Ming Pao, which is controlled by Hong Kong-listed Media Chinese International, was said to be approaching another free newspaper, am730, for a takeover deal six months ago, before the financial crisis erupted. But am730 owner Shih Wing-ching rejected the deal, making Ming Pao turn to Metro. Mr Shih told Media Eye: 'am730 had been approached by many interested parties for a possible acquisition. However, the interests of my staff will come first as they joined my company not only for money but also because they wanted to achieve their personal goals under my leadership.' Market sources said Metro recently saw minor lay-offs in its editorial and sales teams. The paper's sales team has also been noticeably more aggressive of late in securing new contracts. 'Metro recently provided more discount to advertisers to boost sales revenue,' a media agent said, with ad rates now as low as HK$10,000 for a full-page display. Metro has even tried to wean away am730's advertisers by matching the latter's offers. Metro also extended its distribution network to 10 stations along MTR Corp's East Rail and Ma On Shan lines, such as Sha Tin, Tai Wai, Ma On Shan and Tai Po Market. The newspaper has also introduced a lucky draw to attract new readers. Metro was the first free newspaper in Hong Kong to secure exclusive MTR distribution rights. Within 18 months of debuting in May 2004, the newspaper started making profit as it caught advertisers' eye with a quality readership profile of more than 2 million MTR commuters every day. Oriental Press profit warning Oriental Press Group, the publisher of Hong Kong's best-selling Oriental Daily News, yesterday filed a profit warning with the stock exchange, saying operating profit would see a significant reduction because of a decrease in advertising revenue. However, the overall results for the year to March will not be affected as there was a significant non-recurring gain from the sale of a subsidiary. Tung elected Sopa chairman The Society of Publishers in Asia (Sopa), a publishing industry organisation, has elected Terence Tung as chairman and Christina Lee as deputy chairman. Mr Tung takes over the helm from Alan Lammin, who has stepped down following his retirement as publishing director of Time Asia this month. Mr Tung is the chief executive of One Media Group, which publishes Ming Pao Weekly and Hi-Tech Weekly in Hong Kong, while Ms Lee is from Business Week.