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Reach makes tentative approach for Scotsman group titles

Record and Express

The Daily Record and Express merged last year

Reach, the owner of the Daily Record, Daily Mirror and Daily Express, has confirmed it has made an indicative offer to buy assets from JPI Media, owner of The Scotsman and ‘i’ newspaper.

JPI Media last week put its 200+ titles up for auction just months after the company was formed by a group of hedge fund managers as a vehicle to buy them from the administrators following the collapse of Johnston Press.

It set a deadline of last Monday for potential buyers to come forward. Reach, formerly known as Trinity Mirror, is believed to be in pole position. Belgian publisher Mediahuis, which ­recently agreed a takeover of Ireland’s Independent News & Media, and ­others such as Archant and Newsquest, publisher of The Herald, are understood to have thrown their hats in the ring. Daily Mail and General Trust previously expressed interest in the ‘i’ newspaper.

In a statement issued today, Reach said that 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.

“As has been previously stated by the Company, 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.”

Reach, which also publishes Sunday titles, including the Sunday Mail and Sunday Mirror, is now positioning itself as a media consolidator having already acquired the Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers and celebrity magazine OK.

A takeover would see Reach own papers in a number of Britain’s biggest cities including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Sunderland, as well scores of weekly titles. Where such a dominant role would once have prompted competition concerns it is unlikely that any merger with JPI Media would be a cause for an inquiry given the current financial pressures on media groups and the continuing closure of titles.

Reach chief executive Simon Fox said in the company’s most recent annual report that it would “continue to consider merger and acquisition opportunities which would accelerate our strategy where the financial case meets our requirements”.

Reach shares closed at 80.7p today, giving it a £222m market value.

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