Telegraph future ownership up in the air

The news made the front page of today's Daily Telegraph, albeit below the fold
The news made the front page of today's Daily Telegraph, albeit below the fold

It appears to be ‘business as usual’ for print and paper suppliers to the Telegraph and Spectator, as the titles are put up for sale in dramatic circumstances.

Lloyds Banking Group has taken control of the parent company B.UK Ltd and appointed receivers from AlixPartners following a long-running dispute involving loans made prior to the 2008 financial crisis by the Bank of Scotland.

The Barclay brothers – twins Sir Frederick and Sir David – acquired Telegraph Media Group from Hollinger in 2004, in a £665m deal.

Sir David died two years ago.

Possible buyers mooted have included Germany’s Axel Springer, continental media group Mediahuis, Daily Mail owner DMG, and billionaires keen to acquire a so-called “trophy asset”.

However, earlier today (8 June) Sky News reported that the Barclay family had tabled an “eleventh hour proposal” in a bid to wrest back control of the media brands.

In 2021 Telegraph Media Group had sales of £245m and made an operating profit of £30.7m – up from £23.1m in 2020 when sales were £235.2m.

Revenue from digital subscriptions has grown strongly, bringing in £44.1m based on 545,000 subs in 2021, with the number of subscribers now reportedly around 750,000.

Print subscriptions brought in £68.6m, up 3%.

The Spectator (1828) Ltd, which publishes The Spectator and Apollo, had sales of £20.3m in 2021, up from £16.3m in 2020, with operating profits up nearly 85% at £2.9m.

In a statement, AlixPartners said: “Alastair Beveridge and Ben Browne of AlixPartners have been appointed by Bank of Scotland as receivers over the shares in B.UK Limited, a holding company within the Penultimate Investment Holdings Limited (PIHL) Group which indirectly owns the Telegraph Media Group Limited (TMG) and The Spectator (1828) Limited (The Spectator).

“Bank of Scotland has made this appointment under its rights as a lender, to consider alternative strategies to repay a facility with PIHL that remains in default despite extensive discussions to resolve the situation.”

“The receivership over the shares in B.UK Limited is in no way related to the financial health or performance of the Telegraph or Spectator businesses and we do not anticipate any operational changes to the businesses or their employees. Neither the Telegraph Media Group nor the Spectator are entering administration.”

Just under three months ago Telegraph Media Group acquired lifestyle publisher The Chelsea Magazine Company.