Northcliffe drops sale bombshell

By Jon Slattery
The Daily Mail &General Trust has confirmed that it wants to
sell its regional arm, Northcliffe Newspapers, as exclusively revealed
by earlier today.
The move comes as the group has begun implementing its new Aim Higher
cost-cutting plan which is expected to see major job cuts and the
departure of a number of senior editors and staff. The news was broken
to managing directors across the group at 5.30pm last night. In a
statement to the Stock Exchange today DM> said: “The Board has been
conducting a strategic review of the Group’s regional newspaper
division, Northcliffe Newspapers. The Aim Higher initiative was
announced to the market on 29th June, 2005 and aimed at improving
operational efficiency across the division. “The Board has now
identified the potential for further restructuring of the business.
Given the strategic importance of Northcliffe within the regional
newspaper industry, it has also decided to explore whether greater
shareholder value can be achieved through a sale of the business. The
Board has appointed Greenhill & Co. International LLP to assist in
this process.
“In the event of a sale, the Board intends to return a substantial
portion of the net proceeds to shareholders, after allowing for
continuing our current acquisition and investment programme and
maintaining our current credit rating.”
Possible bidders could include Gannett, which owns Newsquest, and
Trinity. One alternative would be for parts of the group to be sold
off. It is the biggest potential sale of a regional newspaper group
since Thomson Regional Newspapers pulled out of the UK with most of its
titles going to Trinity.
DMGT announced a record year of trading with pre-tax profits of £253m, up 8 per cent on last year. Turnover was £2.1bn.
group says it remains “fully committed to the continued growth and
development of Asscociated Newspapers” which it describes as being “at
the heart of DMGT and will continue to be so”.
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