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JPIMedia puts itself up for sale for a second time

David KingJPIMedia has put itself up for sale for the second time in just over a year – saying the company “would benefit from being part of the industry’s consolidation”.

The regional publisher has confirmed to staff today that it has restarted the process of “exploring its options” for the sale of the business.

The company previously put itself on the market in July 2019, later resulting in the sale of national daily the i to DMGT, but in February  it confirmed it was no longer actively exploring the possibility of a sale of the rest of the business.

Chief executive David King announced the latest move in the saga in a message to staff this afternoon, hours after editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford announced a drive to create new digitally-focused content whch would see up to 30 print jobs lost alongside the creation of nine new digital roles.

David, pictured, said in the message: “Last summer our shareholders decided to explore their options to sell our business. As you know, we completed the sale of the i to DMGT in the autumn.

“We also had a number of interested bidders for the regional business at that time although no sale was completed. That process has been on hold since the onset of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown.

“We have made full use of our time since the sale of the i. Audience growth in January to June 2020 is up 41pc year-on-year and digital subscribers are up 237pc between December and June.

“Investment in our digital business has continued. A further seven sites launched paywalls in July and last month the Yorkshire Post launched a donation-based subscription model with no paywalls.”

Reach is previously believed to have offered £50m for the group, not including the i, but later dropped out of the bidding, as did regional publisher Newsquest.

Since then Reach has launched a series of news websites in areas where JPIMedia titles were previously the dominant players, including South Yorkshire, Northamptonshire and Sunderland.

Local World boss David Montgomery’s new National World group was also understood to have been invited in for detailed talks in December.

In his message, David said that revenues were still tracking below pre-Covid-19 levels, but many advertisers and newspaper sales had returned since lockdown was eased, allowing the company to reduce the number of staff on furlough and “unwind” temporary pay cuts.

He added: “We have continued to reduce costs over the period, much of which will sustain into 2021. We had over £22 million of cash in the bank at the end of August and we have successfully come through the lockdown in a strong place.

“As a result, the board is now of the view that it is the right time to re-start the process of exploring its options for the sale of the business.

“I have always been of the view that business would benefit from being part of the industry’s consolidation, albeit it remains a good business in its own right (as recent months have shown).

“I can confirm that the board has just appointed GCA Altium as its financial adviser to lead this process.

“As I have said before, it is the nature of these processes that they are confidential and I am not able to give you a running commentary on its progress, but will of course update you when it is appropriate.

“In the meantime, thank you for all your hard work over the last few months. Clearly there is more to do to ensure we enter 2021 in the best place possible. Once again, thank you for your support and patience.”