Business Media & Marketing

Sunday 16 December 2018

Belfast News owner puts itself up for sale


Alys Key

The Belfast News and Derry Journal owner Johnston Press has put itself up for sale after months of speculation around the company's future.

The group- which has a stable of titles including the i newspaper - said it is seeking offers for a takeover.

The decision comes as a result of a strategic review, which Johnston launched in 2017 to assess options for refinancing £220m (€251m) of bonds due for repayment next year.

The company said it is not currently in discussions with any potential buyers.

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 70pc in afternoon trading amid rumours that a mystery buyer was quietly snapping up more stock.

Bidders for the business could include activist shareholder Custos Group, which already owns more than 20pc of Johnston Press.

Custos Group, 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, Johnston reported a hit to revenues, mostly due to changes in Google and Facebook algorithms.

Total revenue fell 10pc 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 losses of £10.2m a year earlier, although the turnaround was largely thanks to a one-off £8.8m accounting gain.

Press Association

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business