Newsquest is in pole position to win the bidding war for regional publisher JPIMedia after its main rival Reach plc was reported to have pulled out of the race.
The claim comes after Reach announced yesterday it was launching seven digital-only news titles, with the creation of 46 jobs, in areas currently served by Newsquest and JPIMedia newspapers.
Reach originally stated its interest in JPIMedia back in July, confirming it was in the “early stages” of discussions to buy “certain assets” of the company.
Last month it was reported to be in “exclusive talks” over a sale after tabling an offer in the region of £50m.
But any prospect of a swift deal was put on hold when Newsquest, whose US parent company Gannett has been involved in a lengthy merger with New Media Investments Group, tabled its own bid.
One person described as “close to the negotiations” told the FT that Newsquest was now the frontrunner for JPIMedia’s regional portfolio. Its national daily the i looks set to be sold to Daily Mail owner DMGT in a separate deal.
According to a previous report in The Guardian, a completed deal could trigger a competition investigation due to Newsquest’s interests in Scotland, where its titles include The Herald, Glasgow Evening Times and The National.
JPIMedia’s stable includes The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News, but it is claimed Newsquest could run those titles as a separate business until any regulatory scrutiny was complete.
The digital expansion anounced by Reach yesterday will see new sites under the ‘Live’ brand launched in Newsquest strongholds such as Bolton, Bradford, Newport and County Durham and JPIMedia territories such as Sheffield, Sunderland and North Yorkshire.
JPIMedia, Reach and Newsquest and have all declined to comment.