Johnston Press, a company who publishes regional newspapers in the UK including the Yorkshire Post and the i newspaper has announced today that they will be putting themselves up for sale on the London stock exchange.
By Harley Young
The announcement has stunned staff and unions working across the papers.
JP staff arrived at work this morning to an announcement about the company being up for sale.
NUJ reps will be doing all they can to keep members updated on any developments in the coming weeks https://t.co/NoDA1VxT3K
— NUJ_Leeds (@NUJ_Leeds) October 11, 2018
Johnston Press, a company who claim to “touch the lives of more than 32m people nationally each month” with both their print and online publications, decided on this plan of action due to a £220m debt that is scheduled for settlement in June 2019.
With ownership of almost 200 newspapers across the UK, Johnston Press say that they would prefer to sell the company in its entirety, but will probably receive offers from rival businesses in relation to their most successful units.
Stock Exchange statement
A statement provided on the London Stock Exchange site confirms that “the Company has focused on exploring all options available to it in relation to its £220 million outstanding 8.625% senior secured notes due for repayment.” Only then has Johnston Press decided to offer up their company.
At this moment, Johnston Press are not currently in discussion with any potential buyers of the business. Parties that are interested in making a proposed offer would be able to contact the financial advisory group, Rothschild.
The statement also confirms: “There can be no certainty that any offer will be made for Johnston Press, nor that any transaction will be executed, nor as to terms of any such offer or transaction.” It adds that Johnston Press hold the right to change or terminate the proposal of sale at any time – though an announcement would be made if this was the case.
“Business as usual”
Chief Executive Officer David King wrote to the 2,000 editorial and commercial staff at Johnston Press this morning to highlight and address the matter saying: “A sale to a suitable buyer is one of the options available to us as we explore ways to repay our debts and deal with our pension fund deficit. However, there is no certainty that a firm offer will emerge from this process.”
Mr King also said that the process of sale is “about securing a positive future for Johnston Press.” He encourages staff to continue with work as they normally would, as the company will still remain “business as usual” for the time being.
He also claims that: “Johnston Press is a strong and resilient business with good profits and strong profit margins, great people and prestigious titles” and adds that “whatever the future ownership of the Company, we will continue to produce our titles long after the end of the strategic review.”
Period of uncertainty
Whilst the news today is rather unsettling for those involved and those surrounding that it may impact, the intention of the developments faced by the company is “that a short period of uncertainty will put an end to the longer-term uncertainty we have all felt over the past few years.”
— Emma Robinson (@emmarobinson14) October 11, 2018
Growing online presence
Johnston Press is however still continuing to grow its online presence and recognition, with the publications performing well on Twitter and other such platforms. The Yorkshire Post is among these with a growing Twitter following of 168,000 and The Scotsman closely behind this at 148,000 followers.
The Takeover Panel have placed restrictions on Johnston Press so they are currently unable to provide regular public updates on the matter, but staff and those associated will be informed of the next stages where necessary.
“The stronger we are now, the stronger we will be on the other side of this process,” Mr King said.