JPI Media is reportedly in talks to sell the i newspaper and its regional titles.
A source close to the situation told the FT that the company, which was established last November when it acquired Johnston Press in a pre-pack deal, has set a deadline for preliminary bids for the i and more than 100 regional news brands to arrive by next Monday (15 July).
Sky News said JPI Media has sent information to prospective buyers about its assets that contain “optimistic” forecasts about their growth potential via a subscription-based model.
JPI Media has neither confirmed or denied the detail in the reports, although PrintWeek understands that while a sale could be an option for the company, no formal sales process has yet been launched.
A JPI Media spokesperson said: “The board of directors has recently appointed a financial adviser to better assess the current and future prospects for the business and its titles.
“We believe that our industry is undergoing substantial change and we are not immune from the changing trends in news consumption and rise of digital news alongside the decline in print advertising and circulation.
“Consolidation within the regional media industry is necessary, which is why we are actively exploring a number of options open to us. We will provide a further update in due course.”
JPI Media chief executive David King has played down the prospects of a sale in a message to staff, according to Hold The Front Page.
He reportedly said the publisher will press on with its current plans to build the subscription-based model for its larger titles. Online paywalls have already been introduced at The Scotsman and are being trialled on three other regional titles.
“Consolidation would accelerate our digital initiatives further and enable us to benefit from increased scale that will allow us to compete more effectively in a marketplace dominated by global tech giants,” King said, adding the company must continue to develop a strategy that will take it back to “standalone” growth.
As part of the sale last year, JPI Media’s bondholders reduced the company’s debt by more than 60%, from £220m to £85m.
Costs continue to be taken out of the business, meanwhile, through a small voluntary redundancy programme and an overhaul of the group’s property portfolio.