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Johnston Press in talks to buy Lebedev's 'i' tabloid

Newspaper groups in "late-stage discussions" about 'i' deal
Johnston Press in talks to buy Lebedev's 'i' tabloid
The 'i' made a profit of £5.2mln in the year to September 30

Publisher Johnston Press (LON:JPR) is planning to buy the business and some of the assets of the 'i' newspaper for £24mln.

Johnston, which owns the Yorkshire Post, the Scotsman and a range of regional newspapers, is in late-stage talks with Independent Print Ltd about the proposed acquisition.

The group said there was no certainty that the discussions would be successful, but it said the acquisition would create the UK's fourth largest print publisher with over 600,000 paid copies a day.

The 'i' had unaudited carve-out operating profit of £5.2mln in the year to September 30, 2015, and has growing circulation revenue.

Johnston added that new opportunities would arise from a proposed digital product, new geographic markets, and from potential cross-selling of 'i''s advertiser base and vice-versa.

"It is also expected that the acquisition would be cash generative and immediately earnings enhancing," a statement from Johnston said. "A further announcement will be made when appropriate.​"

Independent Print, majority owned by Russia's Lebedev family, launched the 'i' as a concise quality tabloid after buying the Independent, its sister Sunday edition and the London Evening Standard.

The proposed acquisition may alarm 'i' staff and unions already concerned about the impact on jobs of a cost-cutting drive at Edinburgh-based Johnston.

The company has been cutting costs following a decline in revenue and last month announced an operational review that was expected to result in job losses across the UK.

Editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford reportedly told staff in a memo that the company would review its staffing structure and look at whether it had the most appropriate websites for its markets.

"We expect the review of our newsroom structures will lead to a reorganisation for some of our teams as well. In some cases that will mean a reduction in team sizes," he added.

Shares in Johnston Press fell 0.25p to 39.5p in early London trading.

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