Reach plc is the “frontrunner” to buy JPIMedia’s regional newspapers in a deal worth around £50m, it has been reported.
The Financial Times has cited “two people briefed on the negotiations” as confirming Reach is the preferred candidate for the titles, with one claiming “exclusive talks” were held over a possible deal last week.
According to the FT, a deal between JPIMedia and Reach would face potential scrutiny from the UK’s competition watchdog, but it has cited observers as saying the “dire situation in the newspaper industry” would make blocking the deal “unlikely”.
Reach and JPIMedia have both declined to comment on the claims.
Reach first confirmed its interest in JPIMedia in July, saying it was in the “early stages” of discussions to buy part of the company.
Former Local World chairman David Montgomery has also formed a new company, National World, with the aim of building a new publishing group, while Steve Auckland, who was chief executive of LW under David, is also rumoured to be mulling over a bid.
DMGT made a previous bid for the i, believed to have been around £25m, when JPIMedia predecessor company Johnston Press was put up for sale last year, but the company declined to comment on the latest speculation.
After a brief period in administration, JP was eventually taken over by its debt-holders in a so-called “pre-pack” deal after concluding that none of the bids received for all or part of the company were sufficient to pay-off its £220m debts.
One offer of between £140m and £150m was also made for the whole of the JP prior to the company going into administration, while a separate bid of between £96m and £120m for the group, excluding national daily the i, was also received.