Johnston Press to sell off 59 local newspapers

Tue, 29 Mar 2016 | DIVISION SALE

Johnston Press is planning to either sell off or significantly reduce the running costs of a number of its ‘non-core’ local newspapers throughout 2016.

The move comes as the distressed newspaper publisher looks to cut its levels of debt and return to paying dividends. It also follows a year of heavy cost cutting and the selling of 18 titles in its roster.

In Johnston Press’s recent full year results, a statement read: “We have identified a number of newsbrands that are now considered non-core and as such will be either divested or run with less costs, reflecting the medium-term outlook for the identified assets that fall into this category.

"The company will run a formal process, with advisers, to market defined asset groups for sale during 2016. Interest by third parties, enquiring about assets, has been encouraging so far.”

The newspaper group acquired Evgeny Lebedev’s i newspaper for around £25 million earlier this year. However, Johnston Press simultaneously announced a plan to cut 3,000 jobs across its regional brands.

Johnston Press is the fourth largest news publisher in the UK. The titles under threat include the Weekend Herald, Scotland on Sunday, West Sussex Gazette and South Yorkshire Times. A total of 59 local newspapers are currently under review.

Earlier this month, four Labour MPs in Nottinghamshire wrote to Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield to seek assurances “that these newspapers will continue to have an important role to play in the company going forward because we believe that they are key assets to our local communities”.

Gloria De Piero, one of the aforementioned MPs, added: “We urge the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that staffing levels at the newspapers are maintained to a level that does not cause unacceptable stress to the employees who work there and which enabled the newspapers to continue their good work informing local people, championing local causes and scrutinising local democracy.”

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