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Reach in talks to buy 'certain assets' from i and Scotsman publisher JPI Media

Reach has confirmed it is in the “early stages” of talks to buy “certain assets” from JPI Media, publisher of the i paper and The Scotsman.

JPI Media said last month it had appointed a financial adviser to “better assess the current and future prospects for the business and its titles”.

Reach, the UK’s largest news publisher which owns the Mirror, Express and Star titles as well as a number of regional dailies including the Manchester Evening News, did not give specifics on what assets it is eyeing.

Among JPI’s more than 150 regional titles are the Yorkshire Post, the Scotsman and the Sunderland Echo.

In a statement, Reach said it “notes the recent media speculation and confirms that it is in the early stages of discussions in relation to acquiring certain of JPI Media’s assets”.

It added: “Regular consideration is given to merger and acquisition opportunities which would accelerate its strategy. There can be no certainty at this stage that these discussions will lead to an agreed transaction. A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.”

In an email to JPI Media staff this afternoon, chief executive David King confirmed the company is pursuing a “formal process to explore the sale of the business”.

“There is no certainty that a sale will result,” the email added.

A spokesperson for JPI Media said they could not comment on the details of any ongoing negotiations.

Sky News has reported that Reach may be interested in acquiring “most” of JPI Media, claiming the company has submitted an indicative offer.

A source told the broadcaster that Reach “could also modify any offer to acquire smaller chunks” of its rival publisher.

It has previously been reported that Belgian publisher Mediahuis, which took over Irish publisher Independent News and Media in April, and rival regional publishers Newsquest and Archant could be among the bidders.

King told staff in an email only two months ago that “no formal sales process” was open for any of its titles.

The company was formed by Johnston Press bondholders who bought it out in a pre-pack administration deal last year.

The investors agreed to wipe out £135m of the publisher’s debt and extend the deadline on remaining £85m debt to December 2023.

Since taking over, JPI Media’s hedge fund owners have shuttered 13 titles across the UK and sought to cut up to 70 full-time editorial jobs.

The i, which was bought by Johnston Press in April 2016 from Independent owner ESI Media, helped the company mitigate a broader decline in revenues in the first half of 2018 when the paper grew its earnings by 60 per cent.

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