Saturday 21 October 2017

Irish Daily Star stake in play as UK rivals eye Desmond titles

Richard Desmond is in talks to sell his Northern & Shell group. Photo: Bloomberg
Richard Desmond is in talks to sell his Northern & Shell group. Photo: Bloomberg
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

The company that publishes the Mirror newspaper is in talks to buy media assets, including what is understood to be 10pc in the owner of the Irish Daily Star.

London Stock Exchange listed Trinity Mirror, publisher of Britain's Daily Mirror, said yesterday that it is in talks to buy a stake in billionaire Richard Desmond's newspapers business, after reviving talks that two years ago had failed to produce a deal.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland born media executive David Montgomery, who was previously chief executive of the Mirror Group, is understood to be lining up his own bid to buy the remaining 80pc of Mr Desmond's newspapers assets.

The assets include a 50pc stake in the Irish Daily Star, which is co-owned by Independent News & Media (INM) which is the publisher of the Irish Independent.

Trinity Mirror is in talks to buy what is understood to be a 20pc stake in the newspaper assets of rival Northern & Shell Media Group, including the Daily Express and Daily Star titles, it said in a statement yesterday.

The deal would see Mr Desmond's Northern & Shell Media Group create a new company with assets including the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday and Trinity Mirror buy a minority stake.

A separate deal could see Mr Montgomery, who was born in Bangor, Co Down, buy the remaining 80pc of the new business with backing from private equity, potentially including Towerbrook Capital Partners, Sky News reported.

Mr Montgomery has led deals to buy and sell a number of media businesses since leaving the Mirror Group in the late 1990s.

That included the first foreign takeover of a German newspaper business in 2005, when he gained control of Berliner Verlag, publisher of Berliner Zeitung and Berliner Kurier.

Two years ago Mr Montgomery led the sale of UK regional newspaper group Local World to Trinity Mirror in a deal that valued the business at £220m.

Bloomberg News reported on Monday that Mr Desmond was negotiating to sell his tabloid newspaper business, with celebrity magazines, including OK!, potentially also involved.

A deal combining the Mirror and Daily Express in the UK would be unusual, because it would bring together two newspapers with contrasting editorial stances on major issues.

The Daily Express has taken an editorial line against immigration and backed Britain leaving the European Union.

The Daily Mirror has traditionally backed Britain's Labour Party and last year took an editorial stance opposed to Brexit.

However, a merger would allow the companies to combine resources, including selling advertisements across publications, bulk buying newsprint and sharing stories.

"It's Trinity's strategy to be a last man standing and pick up assets as people exit the industry," said Jonathan Helliwell, an analyst at Panmure Gordon. (Additional reporting Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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