Board asked about 'administration'
Johnston Press unable to explain shares surge
Johnston Press owns 200 titles including The Scotsman, the i and the Yorkshire Post
Johnston Press, owner of The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, said today it could offer no reasons for a sharp fluctuation in its share price amid ongoing speculation about its future.
The shares rose today from 3.5p to 9p before closing at 6.1p, a rise of 74%.
In a statement the board said it “notes the rise in the company’s share price today and confirms that it knows of no operational or corporate or other reason for the price movement.”
It added that the company “continues to explore a number of strategic options for the restructuring or refinancing of its bonds and confirms that no agreement on these potential options has been reached. “
The company received a letter last Friday from Custos Group, owned by the Scandinavia-based media operator Christen Ager-Hanssen. The letter requests confirmation on whether the company intends to appoint administrators.
He has threatened legal action if the company is placed in administration before being sold-on by the administrators in a “pre-packaged sale”.
In his letter, Mr Ager-Hanssen wrote: “Of course, rumours swirling the market may be entirely false. But there are also rumours in the market that leaks have been made on purpose to manipulate the stock price to fall sharply which have as we know happened lately and damaged significant shareholder value.
“I am concerned that market manipulation may be at play and/or that information may have been leaked specifically so as to enable a pre-packaged sale on terms not in the best interests of the company.
“Please be aware, if formal insolvency and a sale of the business are in effect a serious game plan, my position and intervention must absolutely be considered,”
The board said it had noted commentary in the media but said it is “not in receipt of any plan or proposal from any party for a refinancing or restructuring of its debt. Further announcements will be made as appropriate.
“As stated previously, any proposal that results from these discussions will remain subject to negotiation and consent of relevant stakeholders, and there can be no certainty that a formal proposal will be forthcoming.”
The company parted company with CEO Ashley Highfield last month, replacing him with CFO David King. It said Mr Highfield had resigned ‘for family reasons’ and in order to “fulfil his plans to transition to a be a ‘plural’ non-executive director as the next phase of his career.
Custos, which has built a 20.2% stake in the company, attempted at the end of last year to remove chairman Camilla Rhodes and director Michael Butterworth and replace them with former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and businessman Steve Auckland.