'Daily Mirror' auction hots up

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The Independent Online

Trinity Mirror has had numerous approaches from potential buyers of its flagship national newspaper titles, including the Daily Mirror, but the company insisted yesterday that it is committed to completing a strategic review of its operations before opening talks.

Sly Bailey, chief executive of the newspaper publisher, is due to reveal the findings of its review next month, with speculation building that it could split up its business and sell either its national or regional titles. The company is being advised by investment bank NM Rothschild.

Marcus Evans, owner of the eponymous conference and hospitality company, has approached the bank about buying the company's national titles for between £550m and £600m. He tried to buy Trinity Mirror's national assets for £800m two years ago.

A Trinity spokesman said the company would not entertain talk of a sale before it completes its review. He said: "Marcus Evans is welcome to buy the Daily Mirror for 40p at the newsagent. This approach is wishful thinking on his part as none of Trinity Mirror's assets are for sale."

Analysts said the new offer from Mr Evans would not tempt the board into discussions. UBS said £600m is around the mid-point of market expectations of what that business would be worth if the group's Scottish titles were not included.

However Mr Evans' move could flush out other interested parties.

Peter Williams, finance director of Daily Mail & General Trust, said it was "extremely unlikely" that it would bid for the company. "It would be a brave person who might buy it," he added.

Johnston Press, owner of The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, also ruled out a bid until the results of the strategic review are known. Other names in the frame include Mecom, the AIM-listed company run by David Montgomery, who previously ran the Mirror Group, and the US newspaper publisher Gannett, which owns the Newsquest group.