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December 2, 2013updated 03 Dec 2013 2:00am

Johnston Press confirms £7.2 million sales talks over 14 Irish titles leading to £157.8 million loss

By Darren Boyle

Johnston Press is set to make a £157.8 million loss on its Irish newspaper arm if talks over a £7.2 million sales deal are successful. 

The company is planning to sell its 14 titles to advertising executive Malcolm Denmark according to a report in The Sunday Times.

The company confirmed that talks are currently underway although the deal has not yet been agreed. 

Johnston Press notes recent press speculation and confirms that discussions are at an advanced stage in relation to the possible sale of its 14 regional newspapers in the Republic of Ireland which include the Leinster Leader, the Donegal Democrat, the Limerick Leader and the Kilkenny People for an aggregate consideration of EUR 8.5 million in cash.

There can be no certainty that agreement will be reached on a sale; a further announcement will be made as appropriate.

Johnston Press spent more than £165 million acquiring some of Ireland’s most influential regional papers including the Donegal Democrat and Limerick Leader.

It also spent £115 million buying the Leinster Leader group of newspapers in 2005 – shortly before the collapse of the Irish economy.

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According to the Dublin edition of the Sunday Times, Johnston’s newspapers in Northern Ireland are not part of the proposed deal.

However, before any deal can be finalised, the Irish Competition Authority and the minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation Richard Bruton will have to grant approval.

It is understood that Denmark has established Iconic Newspapers to facilitate the buy-out.

Denmark made his money through his Mediaforce agency that places advertisements in more than 400 local and national newspapers across Ireland and Britain.

One year after arriving in Ireland, Johnston Press reported profits of almost £11 million on sales of £37 million – according to the Sunday Times.

The paper reported that last year profits plummeted to less than £820,000 on sales of £14 million.

Johnston Press closed the Offaly Express in Tullamore in 2012.

It also closed Donegal on Sunday and shut down its print operation in Limerick.

The company has appointed joint editors for several of its newspapers such as the Leitrim Observer and Longford Leader in an effort to cut costs.

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