Deadline looming for media group
Daily Mail planning ‘i’ bid in Johnston Press break-up
The Daily Mail and General Trust is said to be in the early stages of putting together an offer for the budget quality paper which operates from the same building as the mid-market tabloid.
A bid may prove hard to resist for cash-strapped Johnston Press which has put itself up for sale under the weight of a £220 million debt burden – which has to be re-financed by next June – and a £40 pension deficit.
JP, which also publishes The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Edinburgh Evening News and the Falkirk Herald, bought the ‘i’ from ESI Media, the publisher of the Evening Standard and Independent titles, in 2016 for £24m.
DMGT is expected to lodge a bid in the next few weeks, according to Sky News. It has been a rare success in the newspaper market with circulation up 17% and ad revenues improving by 20%.
It has propped up Johnston Press’s under-pressure balance sheet and a sale may be seen as further weakening the rump of the business.
Few analysts expect a rush of offers for the whole group, or even for its individual titles, given the slowdown in revenue and circulation. Trinity Mirror, now named Reach, and DC Thomson are thought the most likely bidders for the stronger titles, though some are also betting on a Mike Ashley-style swoop on discounted assets should the company fall into administration.
Bondholders, including the hedge fund GoldenTree Asset Management, will play a central role in determining the future of the company, with shareholders unlikely to see anything more than a modest payout from any break-up.