Publisher of The News invites potential buyers

JOHNSTON Press, the owner of The News, has put itself up for sale after months of speculation about the company's future.

Thursday, 11th October 2018, 5:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th October 2018, 6:39 pm

The group, which owns hundreds of titles including the i newspaper, The Yorkshire Post  and The Scotsman, said it was seeking offers for the company. The decision is part of a strategic review, which JP launched in 2017 to assess options for refinancing £220m of bonds due for repayment next year. The company said it was not currently in discussions with any potential buyers. JP said parties with a potential interest in making a proposal should contact Rothschild. It added that there could be no certainty that an offer would be made, nor that any transaction would be executed, nor as to terms of any such offer or transaction.

JP's CEO David King said: '˜A sale to a suitable buyer is one of the options available to us as we explore ways to repay our debts and deal with our pension fund deficit. However, there is no certainty that a firm offer will emerge from this process. '˜This process is about securing a positive future for Johnston Press. In the meantime, it is business as usual. Johnston Press is a strong and resilient business with good profits and strong profit margins, great people and prestigious titles. '˜I am certain that whatever the future ownership of the company, we will continue to produce our titles long after the end of the strategic review. 

'˜Our newspapers and websites continue to perform well against a tough market backdrop. We made £6.2m in pre-tax profits in the first six months of the year.'

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Speculation that the publisher would be sold has been growing since it announced the strategic review in March 2017.

In August 2018, the company's share price spiked, surging by as much as 70 per cent in afternoon trading amid rumours that a mystery buyer was quietly buying up more stock. Bidders for the business could include activist shareholder Custos Group, which already owns more than 20 per cent of JP. At its most recent trading update, JP reported a hit to revenues, mostly due to changes in Google and Facebook algorithms. Total revenue fell 10 per cent to £93m for the first half of 2018, despite a boost from the i newspaper. In the same period, the company swung out of the red with interim pre-tax profits of £6.2m against a loss of £10.2m a year earlier. The turnaround followed a one-off £8.8m accounting gain.