A regional publishing boss says “nothing has been decided” amid reports that it is considering selling off some or all of its newspaper titles.
According to a report on Sky News, JPIMedia is sounding out advisers about launching an auction of parts or all of the business.
Prospective advisers are understood to have been interviewed in the last few weeks, with an appointment said to be imminent.
But JPIMedia has responded to the speculation by saying “nothing has been decided”, with chief executive David King, pictured, moving to reassure staff at the company’s titles this morning.
In his report, Sky News city editor Mark Kleinman wrote: “City insiders said this weekend that the likeliest outcome was the sale of the i in one transaction, and the rest of the group in another.
“The likely valuations of the regional titles, which include the Yorkshire Post and Belfast News Letter, is unclear but is expected to reflect the dwindling financial prospects of news outlets hurt by the shift towards online, often free, rivals.
“The strategic review will be closely watched by JPIMedia’s roughly 2,000 staff, who endured an anxious period last November when the company was forced to call in administrators.”
In response to the story, David issued a memo to all staff this morning which has been seen by HTFP.
Wrote David: “While I would not normally comment every time there is media speculation about what we are doing, I appreciate that it can be unsettling if you have seen a story speculating about a potential sale of JPIMedia, hence this short note.
“Nothing has been decided and there is no formal sale process underway. We are developing business plans for the group, and as part of this process we are working with advisers, to help us and our new owners assess those plans and opportunities.
“There is a lot going on in our industry, which continues to face tough challenges. Takeovers are being attempted in the US, we saw an acquisition in Ireland only last week, and of course the government is responding to the Cairncross review. I have no doubt there will be more speculation about us over the coming weeks and months.
“The management team is very much focused on delivering 2019, and you will have seen a number of recent announcements around the editorial trial in the North East, new App launches etc.
“All are part of building a digital strategy that will secure a future for our titles and our staff. The next stage in that process is the SLT Strategy Day on 21 May.
“I will of course keep you up to date with any developments when I have something of substance to say. In the meantime please let me know if you have any thoughts, questions or concerns, either via your line manager, or direct.”
JPIMedia, which is made up of Johnston Press’s former debt holders. purchased the business in a so-called “pre-pack” deal in November after a brief period in administration.
It was subsqeuently revealed that a total of six offers were received for the regional publisher beforehand.
The company’s administrator Alix Partners said an offer of £2.5m was made for Sheffield daily The Star, the Sheffield Telegraph and the Doncaster Free Press, while a bid of £30,000 was also received for the Observer Series and West Sussex Gazette.
One offer of between £140m and £150m was made for the whole of the group, while a separate bid of between £96m and £120m for the group, excluding national daily the i, was also received.
Two separate bids for the i alone, worth £25m and £35m respectively, were also made, one of which is believed to have been from Daily Mail owner DMGT.
However, it was considered that none of the offers received, or any combination of them, would result in aggregate net proceeds sufficient to enable the group to repay its bonds in full.