Express Newspapers to axe up to 80 jobs

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MATHEW HORSMAN

Express Newspapers is to make about 40 editorial staff redundant, and may lay off as many as 40 production and support staff. The publisher of the Daily Express, the Sunday Express and the Star is to send out letters detailing the layoffs in the next day or two.

It is believed that voluntary departures have been solicited in advance of announcing mandatory redundancies.

Neither Express Newspapers nor United News & Media, the publicly quoted parent company, would comment yesterday.

United's stock dropped 1p yesterday to 524p on news that Goldman Sachs, the investment house, had downgraded the stock to the status of "market underperformer." The US-based broker was said to have reduced its estimates for pre-tax profits in the current year to pounds 137.5m from pounds 147.5m, largely on the basis of higher prices for newsprint and lower anticipated advertising revenue.

United, which has also expanded into the exhibitions business in the US and the Far East, changed its name earlier this year from United Newspapers to underline its strategic shift from the newspaper market to other media- related sectors. It has established an electronic library and is exploring other ways of distributing its editorial product electronically.

But it is also a magazine and regional newspaper publisher, and performs contract printing of other titles. All three sectors have been affected by a sharp increase in newsprint costs.

Some national newspaper publishers have responded with smaller print runs and fewer sections. Higher newsprint prices are expected to last well into 1996.

The Express group of newspapers has suffered under the national circulation price war, losing readers following a decision by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to lower the prices of its broadsheet quality daily the Times and its tabloid the Sun.

However, Mr Murdoch recently signalled a relaxation of the price war, raising the cover price of the Times by 5p to 25p.

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