Mirror in talks with Midland newspaper group

Mirror Group announced yesterday that it is in talks with Midland Independent Newspapers, owner of the Birmingham Post, about a possible bid for the company.

The news came after months of speculation that the two companies were in discussions. Market observers said yesterday that Mirror and MIN had been in talks "on and off" for around eight months. Neither David Montgomery, chief executive of Mirror, nor Chris Oakley, chief executive of MIN, would comment last night. MIN's shares soared 30p to 179p yesterday, up from a 12-month low of 108p last summer.

Dealers said the announcement was sparked by renewed rumours in the market. However, it is thought the deal will not be finalised immediately, and talks are progressing at a "fairly leisurely" rate.

Mirror, which owns a 46 per cent stake in Newspaper Publishing, publishers of The Independent and Independent on Sunday, already co-operates with MIN on a cable television venture, Birmingham L!ve. Executives at both companies have previously said that these existing business links may have started rumours of a deal.

Analysts speculated that, judging by the prices offered for other regional newspaper groups, MIN may go for around pounds 180m. Some commentators also believed that if Mirror clinched the deal it would sell a number of titles in order to focus on MIN's Birmingham and Coventry strongholds. A range of groups, including Johnston Press and Midland News Association, may be interested in any titles offloaded.

One analyst said Mirror could expand further into the regional newspaper sector if it was successful in its bid for MIN. He said: "If Mirror get it, I'd see it as a stepping stone to acquiring other regional newspaper groups." Mirror bid in conjunction with Independent Newspapers for Pearson's Westminster Press titles last year, but lost out to Newsquest Media Group.

MIN has been repeatedly named as a bid target as consolidation in the regional newspaper industry gathered pace.

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