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Archant snaps up London titles for £52m

Archant has today acquired 12 weekly free and paid-for newspapers in North London, East London and Essex from Independent News & Media’s portfolio of 27 in the capital.

The announcement came as competition minister Gerry Sutcliffe agreed that Northcliffe Newspapers could buy all 27.

Newsquest had also already agreed a deal for all 27 – only to be told by the Competition Commission that its proposed purchase of eight of the titles might operate against the public interest.

After Newsquest regrouped, the sellers also said they would look at the best way forward because there were several bidders for the titles.

But Archant moved fast and ownership of the 12 will be transferred with immediate effect.

Archant is paying £52m for the titles whose total weekly circulation is just over 316,000.

The papers are in three divisions:

  • North London (three newspapers) the Islington Gazette and Hornsey Journal paid-for titles and the Herald free series;
  • East London (five newspapers) – the two East London Advertiser and Hackney Gazette paid-for titles and the three free Express newspapers covering Stratford, Stoke Newington, Shoreditch and their surrounding areas;
  • Essex (four newspapers) – the Barking and Dagenham Post paid-for series and three free newspapers covering the Barking, Ilford, Romford and their surrounding areas.

    Archant chief executive John Fry said: “Archant is acquiring a strong portfolio of local newspapers that all play an important role in their local communities. This will strengthen our position as the UK’s leading independently-owned community media publisher.

    “Opportunities to acquire regional newspaper portfolios of quality and scale are few and far between.

    “We therefore consider this acquisition to be of significant strategic importance given the geographic proximity to our existing areas of publication and the enhancement it gives to our coverage in and around North and East London.”

    The Archant team took advantage of its private status, its strong cash position and secured lines of credit to seal the deal.

    The deal does not need the prior approval of the Secretary of State as the total average daily paid-for circulation of Archant’s existing newspapers and the papers being purchased are below the 500,000 threshold currently specified by the DTI.

    This acquisition means that Archant consolidates its position as a UK top ten regional newspaper publisher. It is already the largest privately-owned UK local and regional newspaper group.

    In a separate development, Archant has reached an option agreement regarding the possible future acquisition of a further 15 weekly free and paid-for newspapers in North West London and Kent from Independent News & Media.

    The total weekly circulation of the 15 covered by the option agreement is currently just over 304,000.

    The papers include:

  • North West London (seven newspapers) – the four titles in the paid-for Times series which covers the area from Hammersmith to Westminster, two free newspaper series, the Wembley Chronicle and the Willesden Chronicle, and a paid-for title called Job Watch
  • Kent (eight newspapers) – four paid-for newspapers in the Kentish Times series, covering Bromley, Bexley, Dartford, Gravesend and surrounding areas, and four free newspapers in the Express series covering the same areas.

    Archant currently produces four daily regional newspapers, including the Eastern Daily Press and the East Anglian Daily Times, and more than 50 weekly newspapers with a combined circulation of around 2.5m copies every week.

    It also publishes around 60 magazines and 40 websites. It is a private company with a turnover of over £150m. It employs more than 2,500 people around England and Scotland and its head office is in Norwich.

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    ©NEP 2003