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Norwegian investor buys 5pc of Johnston Press

CAH_25jan2011A Norwegian investor whose firm owns the Swedish version of the Metro has bought a 5pc stake in UK regional publisher Johnston Press.

Christen Ager-Hanssen, left, who is reckoned to be worth £2.5bn, has unveiled ambitious plans for the group and says he intends to increase his investment further over time.

The businessman, once regarded as Norway’s richest man but based mainly in London since the 1990s, purchased a 5.14pc stake in JP on Wednesday.

Johnston Press shares have surged by nearly 20pc in the wake of the deal to stand at 16.5p.

Over recent years JP has paid off tens of millions of pounds worth of debt accumulated during the 1990s when it bought up scores of UK newspaper titles, but it still has £220m worth of bonds due to be repaid by 2019.

But in an interview with a national newspaper published today, Mr Ager-Hanssen vowed to help it sort out the bond issue, indicating that he had lined-up other investors to help take on the debt.

“I believe in the company and I think that they will be able to sort out the bond issue and that we can help them do that,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“I think we need to move quite quickly. This is something that will happen over the next six months.”

Mr Ager-Hanssen’s firm Custos bought the Swedish freesheet Metro and its associated websites earlier this year, but he said there would be no direct link between the two companies.

“I don’t think we see any strategic synergies. Where we are focused is actually building audience and we want to invest heavily into UK media. And we will do that. We will increase our stake in Johnston.

“You can take Johnston’s audience, which is 32m, or 34m, and kick-start new companies like we did in Sweden.”

A spokesman for Johnston Press said: “As a major new shareholder, and with his experience, we of course welcome a conversation with Christen and a meeting has been set up.

“As shown at the latest results, JP is showing some good signs of growth – digital revenues and the i’s success being two stand-out points. We continue to work on the strategic review and are making progress.”

9 comments

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  • August 11, 2017 at 9:03 pm
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    “You can take Johnston’s audience, which is 32m, or 34m, and kick-start new companies like we did in Sweden….
    Is this a newspaper company or an industrial development organisation?
    no words of hope for the scores of local weekly papers destroyed by JP. Just using digital to go in another direction. Well it wasn’t working for weekly papers anyway! But as long as Ashley looks good never mind the the struggling local papers.

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  • August 14, 2017 at 10:23 am
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    There’s an old saying, isn’t there, about throwing good money in after bad?
    Although I am sure it’s not the case here.

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  • August 14, 2017 at 10:24 am
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    16.5p is a pretty dreadful share price still, bearing in mind the consolidation.
    Still Ashers hangs on to the cliff face.
    You have to admire his stickability

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  • August 14, 2017 at 8:18 pm
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    JP and Ashley have long been an easy target – to the detriment of hard working, morale sapped staffers. I sincerely hope for all, the arrival of this new chap marks a turning point. You’ve done your time in hell boys

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  • August 15, 2017 at 7:46 am
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    Even at the present share price, which is higher than when Ager-Hanssen’s stake was bought, this represents an investment of about £50,000. Not worth too many headlines.

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  • August 15, 2017 at 10:11 am
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    No crumbs of comfort for the sales staff facing decisions on redundancy this week. Don’t see how many papers can survive with hardly any ad reps covering local patches. JP not interested in customer service any more – “leave it to the sales team on the phone”. I’ve seen advertisers stop advertising when their rep has gone – no face to face interaction, no opportunity to present and upsell to the customer – it’s all very sad. I flick through my local JP papers on a weekly basis and am not surprised at how little local advertising is in the papers. Big changes on the way methinks.

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  • August 15, 2017 at 4:21 pm
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    Despairingly
    The industry has carried far too much commercial deadwood for too long,and for what? The worst ad revenues ever, but like the best journalists,the most competent and professional sales people at all publishers have long since moved on, often to competitor publications, allowed to go or moved on at the time you really need them most,as the steady and consistent decline in ad revenues is showing
    Maybe a cull of the huge number of non productive managers would make the bottom line savings more acceptable as that’s where the real waste costs are

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  • August 16, 2017 at 9:40 am
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    From the Word furnace
    Totally agree. The formation of “Acquisition” and “Retention” teams last year in my opinion was management’s biggest mistake. Splitting up already good teams to form this new structure. The retention reps did fine – looking after and up-selling to existing clients and getting new business, whilst the Acquisition team spent months bringing in very little – mostly at the crucial pre Christmas period. Higher management need to take a long hard look at themselves – the endless scrutiny of spreadsheets, daily conference calls reading through figures, opinions not listened to – leading to a demoralised sales team, especially when the team hears of other teams not doing the same thing. Constant re-structuring has led to an absolute mess.

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