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£60m Newsquest purchase to boost its London publishing

Newsquest is ready to buy 29 paid-for and 16 free weekly newspapers in a deal with Independent News & Media, which is trying to raise money to pay off its debts.

Any sale would be subject to approval by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry under the Fair Trading Act 1973 – but the company expects it would be completed by the end of June.

The sale of Independent Regionals, a London operation which includes the Kentish Times and Islington Gazette, would raise around £60m, and the company is also issuing new shares to ease its debts and give a platform for new growth through more cost-effective financing.

Chief executive Ivan Fallon said the sale was being made because regional newspapers were at a premium in Britain and there were “plenty of buyers” for the papers in question.

Newsquest believes the publications will complement its London portfolio and offer significant opportunities for growth.

Chief executive Paul Davidson said: “These titles will combine superbly with our existing publishing and printing operations.

“We share the strong commitment of the management and employees of the Independent Regionals Business to provide quality, local newspapers to readers and advertisers in their communities.”

Independent News & Media’s UK regional newspaper business generated profits before taxation in the year ended 31st December of €6.9m on turnover of some €27m.

The net assets are around €31.9m and the total number of employees in the UK regional newspaper business is approximately 275.

INM acquired its first interest in regional newspapers in the early 1980s, and progressively built up this division through subsequent acquisitions.

It bought the Belfast Telegraph Newspapers group in March 2000, and is still “fully committed” to their growth.

  • Independent News & Media also owns the Independent and Independent on Sunday and has no plans to alter its portfolio away from the UK regionals business.

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