Guardian 'in talks over sale of MEN'

Guardian Media Group, publisher of The Guardian and The Observer, has held talks about selling the Manchester Evening News and other local papers to Trinity Mirror, a source has claimed.

GMG is considering selling its flagship regional paper to the rival publisher in an attempt to save jobs on its two national newspapers, an unnamed source has told the Daily Telegraph.

The report claimed talks had been over a £40m sale of GMG Regional Media, which runs the MEN, more than 20 weeklies in and around Manchester, the Channel M regional TV station and a series of papers in Surrey and Berkshire that includes the Reading Evening Post and Surrey Advertiser.

The Telegraph report said it was unclear how far talks with Trinity had progressed and if they were still underway.

A spokesman for Trinity Mirror declined to comment and GMG has yet to return a request for comment.

Guardian News & Media, the division of GMG which publishes its two nationals, announced last month that it was looking to cut more than 100 staff to help curb “unsustainable” losses.

GNM has been losing more than £100,000 each day and has already sought to cut costs by relaunching a pared down version of The Observer in the New Year without several of its current magazines and supplements.

GMG, which is owned by the Scott Trust, is obliged to safeguard the future of The Guardian “in perpetuity” through the operation of its other businesses but this obligation does not extend to other newspapers in its group.

In March, GMG announced that 78 journalists would be cut from the Manchester Evening News and its sister weekly titles and all district offices would be closed as a way of reducing costs and recovering lost profits.

The following day it announced that a further 35 journalists would go from its operation in Surrey and Berkshire with the Reading Evening Post reduced from a daily to a twice a week title and the closure of two paid-for titles.

GMG Regional made a profit of £500,000 in the 12 months to March on turnover of £94.5m, down from £14.3m in the same period the previous year when turnover was £120.5m.

Overall, GMG lost £89.8m in the year to March, compared with a profit of £306m in 2008, when it had a windfall from the sale of its 50 per cent share of Auto Trader.

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