Up to eight companies are considering bids for JPIMedia assets, it has been reported.
The Times has claimed several different firms are in the running to take over parts of the regional publisher, although the newspaper has declined to name all interested parties.
Reach plc has previously confirmed its interest, saying recently it was in the “early stages” of talks to buy part of JPIMedia, while last week it was reported former Local World boss David Montgomery, pictured, was poised to set up a new company called National World and had identified JPIMedia as his first target.
Now The Times has also cited Newsquest and Archant as potential bidders, while adding it is hoped Belgian media group Mediahuis will “show its hand” after its purchase of Irish publisher Independent News & Media.
The Times said buyer focus “tends to be on the national titles”, although city titles including the Edinburgh Evening News and Sheffield daily The Star were “profitable performers” in the group.
However, it went on to say that “dozens of weeklies, drained of resources for years, perhaps face a grim fate, under new owners”, adding the current owners “appear resistant to break up the group”, although they may consider “hiving off” national daily the i separately.
Any deal was expected to be done by the end of the month, The Times added.
JPIMedia was formed last November after its predecessor company Johnston Press went into administration with debts of £220m.
Prior to JPIMedia taking control in a so-called “pre-pack” deal last November, JP had put itself up for sale resulting in six offers for all or part of the business.
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.
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.
At the time, it was considered that none of the offers received, or any combination of them, would result in sufficient proceeds to enable the group to repay its debts in full.
HTFP has approached Newsquest, while Archant, DC Thomson, JPIMedia and Reach plc have declined to comment.