There is growing speculation that Independent News and Media is about to enter the market for Trinity Mirror’s Northern Ireland titles.
This follows a visit last week by Trinity Mirror chief Sly Bailey to the Irish home of Sir Anthony O’Reilly.
The luncheon appointment with the Independent group’s chief executive has fuelled market speculation.
The O’Reilly group has already indicated interest in the Irish titles.
While acknowledging that a visit had been made to the Castlemartin home of O’Reilly, a spokesman for Trinity Mirror played down the meeting, saying the invitation came after she attended the races at the Curragh.
The Independent group would, however, face the possibility of a competition issue in Northern Ireland as it already owns the Belfast Telegraph, which was sold by Trinity three years ago as a condition of its merger with Mirror Group.
Trinity Mirror has said it wants to sell off all its Irish titles which include The News Letter in Belfast, the Derry Journal and the Donegal Democrat.
Analysts have valued the Irish papers at between £40 and £50m.
By Des Cryan in Dublin