Trinity Mirror has abandoned a consortium bid to buy Express Newspapers and launched its own takeover talks.
The Daily Mirror publisher is now in talks to buy 100 per cent of the publishing assets of Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell, including the Daily Express.
Previously, Trinity Mirror was planning to take a minority stake in the rival publisher as part of a takeover bid led by newspaper veteran David Montgomery and his National World vehicle.
It is understood that Trinity Mirror became frustrated with the slow progress of the National World bid, which first emerged in January this year. The company also believes it is now better placed financially to buy 100 per cent of Express Newspapers.
Trinity Mirror, which is being advised by Numis, Peel Hunt and Barclays, said this morning:
Further to the announcement made on 10 January 2017 the Board of Trinity Mirror plc ("Trinity Mirror") notes that it is now in discussions to acquire 100% of the publishing assets of Northern & Shell and that it has ceased discussions to acquire a minority stake in a new company comprising the publishing assets of Northern & Shell.
There is no certainty that any transaction will be agreed or completed. Any acquisition would require the approval of Trinity Mirror shareholders.
A further announcement will be made when appropriate.
City A.M. revealed in July that Richard Desmond had opened the books of Express Newspapers, which publishes the Daily Express, Daily Star and magazines including OK! Due diligence was carried out by accountancy firm BDO.
Montgomery has been asked for comment.
The move by Trinity Mirror to go it alone was given a thumbs up by media analysts at Peel Hunt:
Full ownership of these assets will increase the options open to the management team and so increase the potential gain to be derived from such a deal.
The National Union of Journalists said it was seeking reassurances over what a deal would mean for staff on the newspapers.
“The merger of national media titles would have implications for media plurality and diversity,” said NUJ acting general secretary Seamus Dooley.
“We would want a clear understanding of how the editorial independence of the titles will be maintained. We believe that the best interests of staff would be served by the maintenance of independent editorial structures. There are a variety of implications for working practices and staff will be seeking reassurance about their future in any merger.”