John­ston Press put up for sale as debt re­pay­ment dead­line looms

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Christo­pher Wil­liams

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.

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