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Johnston Press seeks more than £8m from sale of offices

Regional publisher Johnston Press is seeking to gain more than £8m from the sale of current and former newspaper offices, it has been revealed.

A website has been set up by the company detailing all the property it has for sale or lease across the UK, comprising mainly of newspaper offices and former print works.

Premises being marketed for sale include some current offices being offered for potential sale and leaseback by the company, including those of the Sheffield Star, Worthing Herald and Bury Free Press.

Also up for sale are the current offices of the Sunderland Echo which are on the market at £850,000 and the Burnley Express which is valued at £160,000.

The initiative comes amid continued attempts by the company to reduce its costs as it seeks to tackle its £306m debt burden.

If the company is successful in selling all of the premises listed on the website, it could raise funds of more than around £8m and rental income of more than £233,150 per year.

The website shows Johnston Press buildings up for sale across the UK.

Other buildings for sale include the Yorkshire Post’s former headquarters in Leeds city centre, following its move to a new base last year, with final bids invited by 28 February next year.

The company is also planning to sell the building of the Wigan Observer and Wigan Evening Post, although the website says the Wigan titles may consider a short leaseback on the part of the site they occupy.

The Bury Free Press site is up for sale for £850,000 but JP plans to enter into a 15-year agreement to lease them back for an initial rent of £76,000 per year.

And the company is also planning to lease part of some of its larger headquarters, including the Hartlepool Mail, where the second floor offices at the building are up for lease for £34,750 per year.

Part of the headquarters of Sheffield daily The Star are up for lease, although a sale would be considered, and suggested possible uses for the basement, ground and first floors of the building include a nightclub or retail use.

JP is also planning to sell its former Peterborough Telegraph offices and print works on Oundle Road with offers for the 5.5 acre site required by 13 December.

So far, three buildings on the website have been sold by the company, including the former office of the West Sussex County Times, which was up for sale for £695,000 due to the title relocating in May.

Others sold were the former offices of the Southern Reporter in Selkirk, which was up for sale for £175,000, and a newspaper office in Kelso, which was advertised for £65,000.

A spokeswoman for Johnston Press said: “The website has been live for some time and is one element of our Staff Working Environment Charter, launched last year, to ensure all our staff work in appropriate and fit-for-purpose accommodation.

“As previously reported on HoldTheFrontPage, the charter is intended to reshape our property portfolio and raise cash while retaining a more appropriate and manageable office network that can be better maintained and will be fit for purpose as we move forward. The website is simply a marketing tool to help achieve this.”

The property website covers buildings for sale across the UK, although it does not have any currently listed in Ireland and does not own any newspapers in Wales.

Not all of the premises listed are former newspaper offices.  They include a sandwich shop in Berwick and a newsagents’ shop in Bellshill, Scotland.

The total sale value of all the premises listed on the site is £7,671,000 although this does not include three major properties which are listed without a guide price

These are the former Yorkshire Post offices, the Sheffield Star offices and the Peterborough Telegraph offices and printworks.

The full list of properties on the website, by region, is:

Scotland

• Stornaway Gazette (current office), for sale and part leaseback – £230,000
• Ellon Times (current office), for sale and leaseback – £80,000
• Mearns Leader, for sale – £90,000
• Office in Cupar, Fife, for sale and leaseback – £60,000
• East Fife Mail,  for sale – £75,000
• Glenrothes Gazette (former office), for sale – £150,000
• Fife Free Press (current office), for sale and leaseback – £300,000
• Linlithgow Journal and Gazette (former office) for sale – £100,000
• Kirkintilloch Herald (current office), sale and leaseback – £125,000
• Newsagents shop in Bellshill, to let – £13,000 pa
• The Buteman (current office), for sale and leaseback – £40,000
• Motherwell Times (current office), for sale and leaseback – £83,500
• Office in Kelso, sold – asking price was £65,000
• Southern Reporter (former office), sold – asking price was £175,000
• Carrick Gazette, for sale – £85,000
• Galloway Gazette, for sale – £85,000

North East

• Takeaway sandwich shop in Berwick, for sale – £112,500
• Sunderland Echo (current offices and former printworks), for sale – £850,000
• Hartlepool Mail (part of current offices), to let – £34,750 pa

North West

• Morecambe Visitor (current office), for sale – £350,000
• Nelson Leader (former office), for sale – £90,000
• Burnley Express (current office), for sale – £160,000
• Wigan Observer / Wigan Evening Post (current office), for sale / may let – offers invited
• Chorley Guardian, (current office), for sale – £125,000

North and East Yorkshire

• Bridlington Free Press (current office), for sale – £185,000

West Yorkshire

• Wharfe Valley Times, to let – £14,900 a year
• Yorkshire Post (former offices), for sale, final bid date 28 February

South Yorkshire/North Midlands

• Eastwood and Kimberley Advertiser (former office), for sale – £120,000
• Chesterfield Advertiser (former office), to let – £12,000 pa
• Derbyshire Times (former office), for sale – £750,000
• Mansfield Chad (former Sutton-in Ashfield office), to let – £15,000 pa
• Mansfield Chad (former office), for sale – £450,000
• Dinnington Guardian (former office, paper now closed), to let – £10,000 pa
• Sheffield Star (part of current office), to let / may sell
• South Yorkshire Times (former office), to let – £11,000

East Midlands

• Gainsborough Standard, for sale – £250,000
• Grantham Journal, for sale –  £350,000
• Rutland Times, to let – £5,000 pa
• Peterborough Webb Estate (former print works and Peterborough Telegraph offices), for sale – offers required by 13 December.
• Bury Free Press (current office), for sale and leaseback – £850,000.

South Midlands

• Northampton Chronicle and Echo (former reel store) Northampton, to let
• Milton Keynes Citizen (town centre office), to let – £23,000
• Milton Keynes Citizen (first floor of Bletchley HQ), to let – £57,000
• Herald and Post/Luton News, to let – £37,500
• Hemel Hempstead Gazette/Herald Express, for sale – £350,000

South

• West Sussex County Times (former office), sold – asking price was £695,000
• The News, Portsmouth (Gosport office), for sale – £225,000
• Worthing Herald (current office), for sale and leaseback – £950,000

12 comments

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  • November 14, 2013 at 9:33 am
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    How about trying to sell some papers?

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  • November 14, 2013 at 9:54 am
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    It makes sense. A lot of businesses are taking on many more permanent staff these days and will need bigger premises as the economy picks up.
    I can’t think of any at the moment though.
    What will do JP no favours is yet another ‘perfect storm’, and one not solely of their making, is brewing.
    Much of the JP estate is exactly the kind of property businesses do not want, wrong locations, older (some ancient) buildings and often impossible to adapt to 21st century working practices.
    In that list is a part property, built in the 1990s and in a relatively bouyant part of the Midlands, which JP could not rent out more than five years ago and pre-recession.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 11:20 am
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    wishfulthinker, southwest…didn’t they try to offload their Irish portfolio some years back? JP looking for about £70 million at that time if memory serves me correct..they got a best offer of about half that so the sale was abandoned. In hindsight, they should have taken it!!!

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  • November 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm
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    The asset-stripping continues even after most of us (naive bastards who only want to produce quality work) believed there were no more assets to strip. How sad and greedy can these people be?

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  • November 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm
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    I like the Johnston Press takeaway sandwich shop for sale in Berwick. At a bargain £112k.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm
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    We’ve been told every JP office is up for sale. There are definitely a few missing from that list!

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  • November 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm
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    Sound business sense and simply following the old EMAP philosophy of owning nothing.
    Lease/Rent property and vehicles and you know exactly what your fixed costs are – is JP finally getting it’s act together?

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  • November 14, 2013 at 5:38 pm
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    When they have done all this, and I suspect the return may be less that envisaged, what else is there to make savings on?
    The only value left is ailing titles.

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  • November 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm
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    Perhaps JP could let its staff know of forward plans to turn regional dailies into weeklies; and the timescale of this……..
    Silly I know….no doubt they will read about it on HTFP………..

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  • November 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm
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    Actually wishful thinker JP no longer interested in selling papers. Or hadnt you heard? Its a webbing tweeting and maybe twerking company.

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