Thomson puts Scottish dailies up for sale oveyr 2

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The Independent Online
MAGNUS GRIMOND

Two of Scotland's premier daily newspapers, the Scotsman and the Aberdeen Press & Journal, were put up for sale yesterday by Thomson Corporation as it announced the pounds 328m sale of its newspaper business south of the border to Trinity International, owner of the Daily Post and Liverpool Echo.

Thomson, owners of the UK's biggest travel agency business, said it was prepared to entertain approaches for the Scottish titles, which will now form the rump of Thomson Regional Newspapers. Analysts believe they could fetch between pounds 100m and pounds 150m, although profits at the Scotsman - and its stablemates the Evening News and Scotland on Sunday - are likely to be down on the pounds 9m they hit in the early 1990s.

Trinity will rocket to the top of the regional newspaper league following yesterday's deal, with a regional circulation of 9.3m. David Snedden, Trinity's chairman, knows both the newspapers he is buying and the Scottish titles, for he was the Scotsman's managing director before taking the same position at TRN in the early 1980s.

Philip Graf, Trinity's chief executive and another former TRN employee, said they had approached Thomson around a year ago, but the issue of bidding for the Scottish titles had not arisen: "The businesses offered to us did not include those north of the border. We were very happy with the businesses we were offered."

There is likely to be strong interest in a bid to take ownership of "Scotland's national newspaper"- as the Scotsman styles itself - back north of the border. There have already been two similar approaches in the last few years under Thomson's ownership.

Another strong candidate is Pearson, the media conglomerate, which has expressed interest in the Scotsman in the past and has no Scottish interests to attract the interest of the Monopolies Commission.

Northcliffe Newspapers, part of the group that owns the Daily Mail, could also be a contender.

Trinity is picking up 51 titles in yesterday's deal, including the Belfast Telegraph, the Western Mail in Cardiff and the Journal in Newcastle.

The shares fell 27p to 343p after it announced a two part, one-for-one rights issue at 280p to raise a total of pounds 182m, with the pounds 130m second instalment dependent on the deal being cleared by the mandatory Monopolies and Mergers Commission investigation.

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