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Archant poised to acquire media assets

Archant is poised to “acquire and expand” after winning permission from its shareholders to increase its borrowing capacity to £270m.

The firm wants to double its size in the next seven years and believes it is at the right stage of development to begin now.

The borrowing increase was given the go-ahead at an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders yesterday.

The company employs around 2,500 people across England and Scotland and publishes four daily newspapers, more than 50 weekly papers, 40 magazines and around 40 websites.

Its daily titles are the East Anglian Daily Times, Eastern Daily Press, Evening News (Norwich) and the Evening Star (Ipswich). Among the 60-plus weeklies are the Royston Crow, Weston & Somerset Mercury and the Ayrshire Leader Series.

Chairman Richard Jewson said: “We are at a stage in the economic cycle when opportunities may present themselves and it is therefore prudent to be in a position to react swiftly.

“This move will enable us to act swiftly and efficiently when opportunities of scale arise, and brings the relative powers delegated to the board into line with other companies in our sector.

“By increasing the powers to borrow to a level of £270m the company is now in a position, after due commercial consideration, to proceed with acquisitions of scale without further reference to shareholders.

“This agility is in contrast to any quoted plc who would be likely to have to refer such a transaction to shareholders under the listing rules. The proposal therefore maximises the competitive advantage of Archant’s private status.”

Chief executive John Fry said: “It shows the group has ambitions, but in all these things it is finding the right opportunity at the right price.”

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