Argus papers deal finalised

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The Independent Online
TRINITY International has finalised its deal to buy the newspaper division of Argus Press.

The acquisition, cleared by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission last week, will see Trinity, publisher of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, pay pounds 20.7m in cash for a mixed bag of 27 southern local newspaper titles.

The Chester-based group, which will also take over Argus's trade creditors, is buying its trade debts and stock and reimbursing Argus for all pre-payments at net asset value, a total estimated cost of pounds 1.5m.

The newspapers, which include the South London Press and the Southern Comet, were put up for sale by Argus after the group ran into difficulties and had to agree a refinancing last year.

Following the sale Argus, originally a pounds 207m management buyout from BET in 1988, will be left with its large trade and business press division, a small consumer division and 600 swimming clubs.

Clifford Jakes, Argus's chairman, said the object of the disposal was to put the group in a healthy state and allow other divisions to expand.

There was fierce competition for the Argus titles with more than five bidders involved in the final tender, leading to some speculation that Trinity had overpaid. Mr Jakes said: 'We are very satisfied with the price we have achieved.'

Trinity refused to comment last night on the price it had paid. 'We are not going to say anything beyond what is in our statement,' a spokesman said.

In the year ended 31 March the titles covered by the deal made a net profit of pounds 600,000 on turnover of about pounds 25m. The net book value of the assets covered by the acquisition is pounds 5.7m

Trinity has promised to invest in the titles, which it points out give it a base of strong paid-for titles in the South of England for the first time.

The acquisition was cleared by the MMC along with Trinity's more recently announced deal to buy the Huddersfield Examiner, for which it is paying pounds 12.6m.