The period of exclusivity set by Independent News and Media for negotiations with Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev over the likely sale to him of the Independent and the Independent on Sunday has been extended.
Today was originally set as the deadline for completion of talks between INM and the owner of the London Evening Standard when “exclusive” discussions started in December, that has now been extended to 26 February.
INM raised the prospect that Lebedev would become the new owner of its two London-based newspapers when it issued a statement this morning confirming the extension had been put in place to bring “discussions to a successful conclusion”.
It is likely that shareholders and INM executives keen to offload the loss-making London papers would want any potential deal in place in the next few weeks as INM results are due on 24 March.
When exclusivity talks were first agreed in December, INM stressed that there was “no certainty” that discussions would lead to a sale of the two national newspapers.
However, at the time sources told journalists a deal was expected “sooner rather than later” with both sides keen to complete in the coming weeks.
Reports in the Irish media last month suggested Lebedev would be unlikely to pay for the papers and that a deal would result in INM taking a one-off â‚¬10 million charge on its accounts.
However, the deal would see INM offload papers that have never made a profit for its current owners and are suffering from sustained and heavy falls in circulation.