Portsmouth on the verge of pounds 190m deal

PORTSMOUTH & Sunderland, the media group at the centre of an unwelcome auction, yesterday said talks on a takeover offer, which it is prepared to recommend, had reached an advanced stage, writes Andrew Verity.

Industry sources believe the company is on the verge of announcing a deal which will value its publishing business at around pounds 190m. The announcement could be made as early as next week.

Until now, the group had been expected to wait until after May 20, when the Competition Commission will rule on hostile bid interest from Johnston Press. Johnston offered pounds 16 a share for up to 25 per cent of the group in January.

Two other companies - Newsquest and Newscom - have been forced to declare they have also approached Portsmouth because of Competition Commission rules. Talks are also continuing with other, unnamed parties.

Charles Brims, chief executive, said: "It is a little further down the track now and we will now be able to sell the publishing side of the company. "

The merger has forced the group to sell its chain of 235 neighbourhood convenience stores, called One Stop. T&S stores, a rival chain, yesterday said it had agreed to pay around pounds 66m for P&S's neighbourhood stores. Analysts had expected just pounds 50m from the deal. Portsmouth shares were unchanged at 1950p.