3i buys Irish newspaper titles

The UK-listed private equity firm has agreed to pay just over £46m to acquire the regional newspaper businesses of Trinity Mirror in the North of Ireland.

UK-listed private equity firm 3i has finalised the arrangements of a buyout of a group of Irish regional newspapers from Trinity Mirror in a deal worth £46.3m.

3i has joined forces with David Montgomery, former chief executive of the Mirror Group, in its bid for the titles which were put up for sale in July. At the time, Trinity Mirror said the division, which comprises the Derry Journal and Century Press & Publishing businesses, was non-core to the group’s business operations.

 

The seven Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland titles being sold include the world’s oldest continuously published English language newspaper, The News Letter in Belfast, which was established in 1737.

 

3i reportedly beat off competition from a number of trade and financial buyers, including HgCapital, Kleinwort Capital and trade buyers including Independent News & Media, the Dublin-based publisher of the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph, and Archant, the privately owned publisher of the East Anglian Daily Times.

 

The £46m price tag is in line with the valuation put on the business by Trinity, which was hoping to raise £45m from the sale.

 

The transaction is subject to approval by the Irish Competition Authority. It is expected the disposal will be completed by early 2004. The sale proceeds will be used to pay down debt. Trinity is selling the newspapers as part of its withdrawal from the Irish market. “These are tremendous assets to own but for Trinity Mirror there was limited strategic fit,” said Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, in a statement. “We were pleased with the high level of interest in these titles, and believe we have achieved a good price and realised value for our shareholders by their disposal.”

 

3i said it was backing a business with talented management that benefit from the strong growth in the Northern Ireland economy. “3i is delighted to be able to back existing management to grow these titles,” said Robin Marshall, a director at 3i. “The economy in the North of Ireland is experiencing strong growth, and successfully run local newspapers will undoubtedly benefit. In addition there are many exciting opportunities to consolidate across the Irish market, replicating what we have seen in the UK mainland over the last ten years.”