Mirror, Express and Star publisher Reach has confirmed it is “no longer in active discussions” to buy titles from rival regional publisher JPI Media.
Reach said in July it was in the “early stages” of talks to buy “certain assets” from the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post publisher, although it did not give specifics about which titles it was considering buying.
But in a trading update today, it said it confirmed it had pulled out of the bidding, leaving Newsquest as the frontrunner in negotiations.
The publisher said in a statement: “Merger and acquisition opportunities which would accelerate the company’s strategy will continue to be reviewed on a regular and disciplined basis.”
Reach already owns a number of regional dailies, including the Manchester Evening News and Liverpool Echo, and weeklies.
JPI Media was formed by creditors when Johnston Press went into administration last year. It owns more than 150 titles, mostly regional, as well as daily national the i paper – bought today by Mail and Metro publisher the Daily Mail and General Trust.
In a trading update, Reach said that between 1 July and 24 November its total revenue fell by 4.4 per cent, an improvement on the 6.6 per cent like-for-like decline during the same period in 2018.
Print revenues fell by 7.3 per cent and digital grew by 14 per cent – both improved margins on last year, which saw a like-for-like 8.2 per cent fall in print and 9.3 per cent drop in digital growth.
The news publisher, the largest in the UK, said it had made “good progress” with a number of digital initiatives with “strong” audience growth across its national and regional websites.
This gave it the “confidence” to develop plans to launch at least seven new regional news websites and recruit 46 journalists next year, it said.
Jim Mullen (pictured), who took over from Simon Fox as chief executive in August, said: “Since joining the business… I’ve been impressed by the strength of Reach’s national and regional brands, the quality of our content and the wide geographic distribution of our products through both print and digital channels.
“I’ve also been encouraged by the wealth of talented and inspirational staff working in the business.
“We have made good financial and operational progress during the period, including an improved like-for-like revenue trend and a further reduction in net debt.
“The Reach brands continue to have real relevance at both a national and local level, as is demonstrated by our considerable audience growth.
“We are working to complement our audience reach with a significant depth of customer insight and data that will allow us to build an intelligent, relevant and trusted content business for the long term.”