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Trinity confirms potential deal with Express Newspapers

10 Jan 2017  |  Ellen Hammett 
Trinity confirms potential deal with Express Newspapers

Trinity Mirror has confirmed that it is back in talks with Express Newspapers about a possible merger.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Trinity said it is at an "early stage of discussions towards taking a minority interest in a new company comprising certain of Northern & Shell's assets," but that "no offer has been made and there is no certainty that any agreement will be reached."

If a deal goes ahead, Trinity will take a stake in Richard Desmond's Express and Star newspapers, which together sell around 845,000 copies a day while Sunday editions flog around 609,000.

Trinity and Desmond first started negotiations in early 2015, when a full sale of Express Newspapers was valued at around £100 million - less than the £125 million Desmond paid for the business in 2000.

However, current talks are understood to be focusing on a merger rather than a full acquisition.

While Desmond has been reducing his media portfolio over the last few years - he sold Channel 5 to Viacom for £450 million in 2014 - Trinity Mirror has been doing the opposite.

Following the collapse of the original Express deal, Trinity paid £220 million for regional publisher Local World which added more than 100 regional titles to its existing 130 local papers.

The publisher then looked at buying the i newspaper from the Lebedevs in 2016 - it was bought by Johnston Press for £24.4 million - before launching The New Day in February 2016.

However, in line with declining print revenues across the business, the newspaper was axed after just nine weeks.

Mark Jackson, UK MD at MC&C, said the consolidation of newspaper groups is to be expected - especially as Facebook and Google continue to hoover up a growing share of publisher revenue.

"The duopoly of Facebook and Google is one of the major hurdles faced by the print sector, but what's broadly not recognised is that there's a point of diminishing returns with digital where spend does actually need allocating to more traditional mass media in order to keep bringing in new prospects for a brand.

"Unfortunately advertisers' overreliance on digital certainties is largely what's drawing spend away from print and towards these digital channels. Trinity Mirror in particular has been doing a lot to combat what it terms 'printism' - spreading the message that the power of print endures, and does so with consumers more importantly than anything else.

"Despite this there are clearly still tough times ahead for the print sector, so whether this particular deal goes through or not, consolidation within the newspaper groups is expected at this stage."

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