Johnston Press is expected to fetch €8.5m for papers it bought for €300m
JOHNSTON Press was on the verge of selling its Irish newspapers last night, ending the company's interest in the Republic.
The firm, which owns hundreds of regional newspapers across Britain and Ireland, is expected to announce this morning that it has offloaded its 14 Irish titles -- including the 'Kilkenny People' and 'Leinster Leader' -- to Malcolm Denmark's Mediaforce.
The newspapers employ around 140 people. No immediate job losses are expected, but market watchers believe it is too early to tell what sort of restructuring Mediaforce has in mind.
While the deal has yet to be formally confirmed, Johnston has previously said a sale price will be around €8.5m. That is about 97pc less than the €300m Johnston Press spent accumulating the Irish titles, most of which were bought during the boom.
While Johnston Press moved aggressively in the boom, it has been caught up in a perfect storm of sinking advertising and circulation revenue.
Under chief executive Ashley Highfield, the company has radically changed its business model. Staff levels are down by almost a quarter, while some newspapers have shifted from daily to weekly publication and rely on their websites to run breaking news.
It appointed joint editors for the 'Leitrim Observer' and 'Longford Leader', and the 'Leinster Express' and 'Leinster Leader'.
Shares in the company rose 2.7pc in London on Thursday. The stock is off 4.2pc on the year to date.