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News groups on brink of £10m merger, claims broadcaster

Newsquest is close to a deal to buy fellow regional publisher Archant in a deal worth between £10m and £15m, it has been claimed.

Sky News has reported Newsquest could complete the purchase of Archant “within days” after a period of exclusive talks.

Newsquest became the frontrunner in the race to but the Norwich-based publisher after negotiations began last month.

Archant went up for sale in January, less than 18 months after it was bought by London-based investment firm Rcapital Partners.

Archant's Norwich headquarters

Archant’s Norwich headquarters

Newsquest was touted at the time as a potential bidder, along with JPIMedia owner National World and Reach plc.

There is a small amount of geographical overlap between the respective patches of Archant and Newsquest, with both publishers operating local titles in Essex, Hertfordshire, London and Somerset.

In North Essex, Archant’s East Anglian Daily Times is in competition with a number of Newsquest titles, while both companies have well-established weeklies in North and East London.

Archant has maintained a “business as usual” approach during the sales process so far, launching a number of new paid-for digital apps at some of its regional titles.

Last month, the group sold off seven of its specialist magazines to Kent-based Kelsey Media in a move confirmed to Archant staff by chief executive Lorna Willis.

But, speaking to HTFP, one employee today accused the publisher of keeping staff “in the dark” about the process.

The staffer, who did not want to be named, said: “We’re all worried we’re about to lose our jobs and have come to the conclusion that is what’s going to happen. It feels frustrating and absolutely disgusting.”

HTFP has approached both publishers for a comment on the Sky News claims.  RCapital has declined to comment.