Sir Ray Tindle has defended the decision to increase his investment in debt-laden regional publisher Johnston Press.
In May 2012 the Tindle Newspapers owner took his stake in Johnston Press to 8 per cent after buying another 600,000 shares, making him the Edinburgh-headquartered company’s third largest shareholder.
It took his holding to 51.2m shares with a market value of well over £3.1m, and came on the back of similar investments in the company over the previous 18 months.
Some have questioned the wisdom of putting money into a company saddled with more than £300m of debt, but Sir Ray is “convinced” the publisher – whose shares were priced at £4.62 six years ago – will bounce back from its current financial plight.
Sir Ray, who has been in the newspaper industry for 65 years and owns more than 200 local newspapers, told Press Gazette: “They [JP] have got some very good papers and I’m convinced this means that, given time, the company will return to strength.
“They have a big debt, yes, but they’re also making quite a reasonable profit. Given enough years, maybe five, they will have reduced that debt to something very easy to handle.”
The Surrey-based proprietor noted that in 2008 the company was carrying debts of around £700m, a figure that has since been more than halved to £336m.
“That of course means that in five years’ time it will be in a much stronger position again.
“I bought many of the shares at 4.5p – if you look at the papers today you’ll see they’re 12.5p. So I wonder why people are criticising my purchase of shares.
“They’re a good bunch of papers. It’s a good set up and will return.”
Johnston chief executive Ashley Highfield has outlined an ambitious plan to turnaround the company’s fortunes by taking it ‘digital first’ and rolling out a redesign of most of its print titles.