Johnston Press, which has just seen off an attempt to muscle in on its Northamptonshire territory by Local Sunday Newspapers, further buttressed its Midlands divisions this week by buying eight free papers in Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire and Derbyshire.
The sale, from Trinity Mirror for £16.1m, is subject to approval by the Trade and Industry Secretary. If given the green light, Johnston will acquire the Northampton, Brackley and Towcester, Market Harborough, Stamford, Wellingborough, Rushden, Kettering and Corby, and Peterborough Herald and Posts and the Derby and Ilkeston and Ripley Traders.
Trinity Mirror feels that the papers are peripheral to its core publications in the east Midlands, which are run from Birmingham and Coventry, where it intends to focus its managerial operations.
Johnston intends to incorporate the titles into its appropriate north, south and east Midlands divisions.
It already has free newspapers of its own in Peterborough and Northampton, the Citizen and Mercury respectively.
Marco Chiappelli, the group’s finance director, said the newly acquired frees would compete with Johnston’s existing titles. "That’s the way we operate," he said.
"The strategy is still to be fully thought out but that’s the way we normally do it. We try to give a better service to advertisers by giving them a wider range of products in which to advertise."
Chiappelli said the company was very keen on bolt-on acquisitions such as its proposed new buys. "They are exactly what we have done in the past. There are significant synergies involved and because of their proximity we can provide more from a central resource without adding to the cost of the operation," he said.
He added: "Although small in some ways, in the context of what we have done in the past, we still think they are of good value to us."
Johnston bought Lincolnshire Newspapers from Mortons of Horncastle in January.
Trinity Mirror bought 84 titles from Southnews last year for £284m.
By Jean Morgan