JPIMedia acquires Johnston Press Group businesses

Johnston PressJPIMedia, a newly-formed company owned by bondholders of Johnston Press, has acquired the group after the publisher put itself into administration. Johnston Press, which owns papers including the i, The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post, had been looking to refinance £220m of debt due to be repaid in June next year.

As part of the transaction, the bondholders have agreed to reduce the level of senior secured debt by £135m (more than 60%), from £220m to £85m, with extended debt maturity to December 2023. Additionally, the bondholders have provided £35m of additional funding for the business.

David King, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Group, becomes Chief Executive of JPIMedia. He said, “The sale of the business to JPIMedia is an important one for the Johnston Press businesses as it ensures that operations can continue as normal, with employees’ rights maintained, suppliers paid, and newspapers printed. We will focus on ensuring the group’s titles continue to publish the high-quality journalism we are known for and which has never been more important. I look forward to working with JPIMedia to assess and implement the opportunities available to us in the future, underpinned by a stronger balance sheet.”

UK, Edinburgh

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Mecom acquires additional shareholding in Wegener

Mecom Group PLC is to acquire a 13.3 per cent. interest in Koninklijke Wegener N.V. from funds managed by Governance for Owners (“GfO”) for a consideration of 8,659,201 ordinary shares in Mecom (which, based on the closing share price on 13th March 2012, implies a transaction value of €16.9m). On Completion, Mecom will hold 99.7 per cent. of the ordinary share capital of Wegener. GfO’s shareholding in Mecom post Completion will be 7.1 per cent.

Wegener is the largest publisher of regional daily newspapers and free door-to-door newspapers in the Netherlands. Wegener’s seven regional daily titles account for 23 per cent. of the country’s total paid-for daily newspaper circulation by volume, and its more than 200 door-to-door weekly freesheets have a daily readership of around 5.5 million.   In addition to its core print business, Wegener owns and operates a portfolio of more than 200 websites, comprising the online editions of its seven paid daily newspapers and most of its weekly freesheets, and several standalone special interest websites.

Wegener’s total revenue from the audited accounts for the year ending 31st December 2011 was €513 million, of which 46 per cent. came from advertising and 40 per cent. from newspaper circulation. Wegener’s profit before tax for the year ended 31st December 2011 was €37 million. The consolidated gross assets of Wegener as at 31st December 2011 amounted to €639 million.

The transaction allows for simplification of Mecom’s group structure, provides operational and commercial efficiencies and will enhance earnings per share for the Group going forward. The acquisition is classified as a Related Party Transaction under the UK Listing Rules and therefore requires the approval of Mecom shareholders at a general meeting, to be held on 2nd April 2012

Tom Toumazis, Chief Executive of Mecom, said, “The acquisition of this substantial minority shareholding in Wegener will simplify the Group’s ownership structure and allow us to integrate our Dutch operations fully within one legal structure and management team.  We look forward to continuing our dialogue with Governance for Owners in their new position as shareholders in Mecom.”

UK, London & Netherlands, Amsterdam

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