Johnston approach draws out bidders

PORTSMOUTH & Sunderland Newspapers said last night it had received approaches from other newspaper groups as well as venture capitalists following Friday's "smash and grab" bid by rival Johnston Press for 25 per cent of the group, writes Andrew Garfield.

The chairman, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, last night warned shareholders that Johnston was primarily interested in blocking any third party from bidding and that accepting its offer would play into its hands.

"Johnston is using smash and grab tactics to get the group on the cheap," he said.

Johnston struck after talks aimed at achieving an agreed deal broke down last month over price. It is seeking to buy 10 per cent of the group through a pounds 16 a share tender offer, to add to the 14.99 per cent it has already acquired. It is now seeking monopolies clearance for an all-out bid for the entire group.

The group wants to avoid being caught out, as it was last year when its bid for Home Counties Newspapers failed because the rival Eastern Counties was able to move in while Johnston's bid was stalled by the Monopolies Commission.

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