Struggling newspaper group Johnston Press set for activist investor meeting

William Turvill
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Dwindling Newspaper Sales Echo Through Economy
Johnston Press publishes more than 200 regional and local newspapers (Source: Getty)

Newspaper publisher Johnston Press could come under pressure this week when its chairman meets with an activist investor.

The company’s share price has fallen from close to 100p this time last year to 8p.

Johnston Press publishes more than 200 regional and local newspapers and bought the national i newspaper from the Independent publisher earlier this year.

Read more: Owner of the i defends bond buyback

In August, reporting a 10 per cent fall in revenue in the first half of the year, chief executive Ashley Highfield City A.M. that the company had been “triple-hit” by the Brexit vote.

Johnston Press Johnston Press | mobile image

Later that month, Highfield was forced to defend plans to buy back its own bonds at a considerable discount. He said: “We have always stated we would use disposals to both strengthen balance sheet and pay down debt.”

The Edinburgh-based company's bonds are trading at a considerable discount. Prices vary but last traded values on the Frankfurt exchange were just under 60p/£, meaning that it could net a considerable saving of the full capital value that is due for repayment in 2019.

Read more: Shares plummet at newspaper publisher "triple-hit" by Brexit vote

The bonds have a 8.625 per cent coupon and cost the company nearly £20m per year just to service interest.

The Sunday Telegraph first reported that Crystal Amber, a top 10 investor with a 3.3 per cent stake, was meeting chairman Ian Russell on Tuesday and that the investor will wait until after the encounter before decided whether to push for change.

Crystal Amber and Johnston Press have declined to comment.

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