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Johnston Press, publisher of i newspaper and The Scotsman, puts itself up for sale

Speculation publisher would be sold growing since announcement of strategic review in 2017

Thursday 11 October 2018 08:25 BST

Johnston Press, the publisher of the i newspaper, The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post, has put itself up for sale.

A statement issued by the company said it was not currently in discussions with any potential buyers.

The decision came as a result of a strategic review, which began in 2017, assessing options for paying back £220m in loans.

The Edinburgh-based publisher owns and operates around 200 newspapers and websites around the UK and Isle of Man, having first become involved in printing in 1797.

It bought the i newspaper from The Independent's owners in 2016.

Speculation that the publisher would be sold has been growing since it announced the strategic review in March 2017.

In August 2018, the company's share price spiked, surging by as much as 70% in afternoon trading amid rumours a mystery buyer was quietly snapping up more stock.

Bidders for the business could include activist shareholder Custos Group, which already owns more than 20% of Johnston Press.

Custos Group, which is headed by Norwegian entrepreneur Christen Ager-Hanssen, reportedly said in August it would be a prospective bidder for the business if it went into administration.

At its most recent trading update, Johnston reported a hit to revenues, mostly due to changes in Google and Facebook algorithms.

Total revenue fell 10% to £93m for the first half of 2018, despite a boost from the i newspaper.

In the same period, the company swung out of the red with interim pre-tax profits of £6.2m against losses of £10.2m a year earlier, although the turnaround was largely thanks to a one-off £8.8m accounting gain.

Its share price closed on Wednesday at 3.24p, valuing the company at £3.4m.

Additional reporting by agencies

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