Scotland business

Johnston Press in talks to buy i newspaper

The i
Image caption The i was launched in 2010 with a cover price of 20p

Johnston Press has confirmed it is in advanced talks to buy the cut-price national daily newspaper - the i - for about £24m.

Johnston, which owns The Scotsman and more than 200 other titles, said the deal would create the UK's fourth largest print publisher with more than 600,000 paid copies a day.

The i newspaper is part of the group that publishes The Independent.

It is controlled by Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev and his son Evgeny.

The i became Britain's first new daily national newspaper in nearly 25 years when it launched in 2010 with a cover price of 20p.

The talks come at a time when the printed media is struggling in the face of falling advertising revenues as customers move to digital platforms.

The sale of the i newspaper could raise questions about the future of The Independent, according to analyst Douglas McCabe from media research firm Enders.

He said: "One's instinct is that the Independent could close after 30 years of existence.

"It is very difficult to disentangle the i and The Independent because there is a lot of crossover between them both journalistically and commercially. If you hive off one of them, it poses risks for the future of the other."

'Late stage discussions'

In announcing the talks, Edinburgh-based Johnston said: "The board of Johnston Press plc notes the recent media speculation and confirms that it is in late stage discussions with Independent Print Limited (IPL) for the potential acquisition of the business and certain assets of the i.​

"There can be no certainty that the discussions between the company and IPL will lead to any definitive agreement concerning the possible acquisition or as to the final terms of any such agreement.

"Completion of the acquisition would be subject to the approval of shareholders of the company.

"The consideration for the proposed acquisition is likely to be £24m, to be provided from the group's existing cash resources."

"In the year ended 30 September 2015, the i had unaudited operating profit of £5.2m."

IPL's parent company, ESI Media, confirmed that talks with Johnston were taking place but added that no decision had yet been made.

Group chief executive Steve Auckland said in a statement: "ESI Media remains committed to our brands, building on our fast growing global footprint, whilst cementing our place as the most important destination for audiences in the capital."

Johnston Press recently revealed plans to cut editorial jobs across its operations in the UK as part of a bid to reduce costs following a decline in revenue.

Shares in the publisher rose earlier this month after it said it expected a major reduction in its pension scheme deficit.

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