Johnston Press put up for sale as debt repayment deadline looms
THE troubled newspaper publisher Johnston Press has put itself up for sale in an attempt to attract a rescuer before it is forced into insolvency by a debt deadline.
Johnston Press, which owns the i national newspaper and dozens of regional titles including The Scotsman and The Sheffield Star, is due to repay £220m in bonds next summer.
After exploring restructuring options for more than a year it said its adviser Rothschild would run a formal sale process. The process is expected to take weeks rather than months.
The publisher was saddled with hundreds of millions of pounds of debt in an acquisition spree prior to the financial crisis. This has been reduced by restructuring, but Johnston Press has said it will not be able to refinance the remaining bonds, due for repayment in June.
The company’s stock market value has collapsed to little more than £3m.
One potential bidder is the US hedge fund GoldenTree Asset Management, which owns the Canadian newspaper publisher Postmedia, and has acquired a dominant position in the debt.
Custos, Johnston Press’s biggest shareholder – which was founded by Christen Ager-Hanssen and owns the Swedish version of the freesheet Metro – is also in the frame. The company is likely to solicit bids from rival newspaper publishers such as Reach and Newsquest.