Daily Mail group raises £132m through sale of Aberdeen title

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Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) has sold its Aberdeen Journals business, which includes one of its most valuable regional newspapers, The Aberdeen Press & Journal, for £132m to DC Thomson, the Scottish publishing group that owns the Beano comic.

The Press and Journal - which dates back to 1747 - mainly serves the north and north east of Scotland.

The move by DMGT followed a failed attempt to sell its entire regional newspaper arm, Northcliffe, to a single buyer. The company pulled the sale earlier this year, saying that it was disappointed by the offers it had received.

DMGT said that the price fetched by the Aberdeen paper and its sister titles vindicated the decision not to accept the offers for the whole of Northcliffe.

Using the price paid for the Aberdeen titles as a guide, Northcliffe would have attracted a valuation of around £1.5bn.

It is believed that earlier offers for the group came in under £1.2bn.

However, Peter Williams, DMGT's finance director, said the company was not in talks to sell other regional papers. "That's it for sales at Northcliffe," he said.

The Northcliffe sale had to be shelved because a downturn in advertising sales led to poor offers. The only regional title that has been bucking the trend was in Aberdeen, where the local economy is based on the booming oil sector.

DMGT's Aberdeen assets were picked up for £82m in 1996. In the last financial year, the Aberdeen Journals group made a profit before interest and tax of £8.1m, on turnover of £38.2m.

The newspapers are located 400 miles north of the nearest other DMGT title, at Hull, which made them non-core holdings, Mr Williams said.

DC Thomson, which is privately owned, also has Dundee's The Courier regional title among its papers and comics.

DMGT also announced a reorganisation of its regional business, and raised its cost-saving target for Northcliffe from £30m to £45m.

The restructure will "inevitably" lead to some job losses at Northcliffe's head office in London, the company said. The restructuring will see some of Northcliffe's functions merged with the national newspaper division, which publishes The Daily Mail.

DMGT will also return £50m to shareholders, some of the money raised from the Aberdeen paper sale.

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