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Advisers to Pearson, the media and entertainment giant, were yesterday locked in late negotiations with two bidders for Westminster Press, the regional newspaper group, with the aim of making an announcement to coincide with its interim profits today. John Makinson, the Pearson executive charged with handling the auction, had been keen to compensate for anticipated poor profits by linking the interims announcement to confirmation of the WP sale.

The confirmed bidders are Newsquest, the regional newspaper group backed by US leveraged buyout specialists KKR, and a consortium made up of Mirror Group and Tony O'Reilly's Independent Newspapers. At least one team was at Lazards' London offices until late in the evening and discussed details including the fate of a multi-million pound surplus in the Westminster Press pension fund. Both contenders are thought to be bidding about pounds 300m although the structure of the offers makes it dificult to specify a headline figure.