News Letter owner formally declares business for sale

No talks at present
No talks at present

News Letter owner Johnston Press has put itself up for sale after months of speculation about the company’s future.

The group, which owns hundreds of titles including the i newspaper, The Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman, said it is seeking offers.

The decision comes as a result 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 is not currently in discussions with any potential buyers. It said parties with a potential interest should contact its advisors Rothschild.

It added that there can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor that any transaction will be executed, nor as to terms of any such offer or transaction.

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% 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% of JP.

Custos, which is headed by Norwegian entrepreneur Christen Ager-Hanssen, reportedly said in August that it would be a prospective bidder for the business if it went into administration.

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% 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.