Observer media commentator Peter Preston predicts today that Newsquest's newspapers could be the ones sold off if the big regional publishers get their way and convince the Government to relax the takeover rules for the local press.
Preston notes that "broad rationalisations" could give Trinity the West Midlands, North-East and Lancashire, Northcliffe the East Midlands and South-West, and Johnston Press could have Yorkshire, but Newsquest's titles do not fit into such easily designated areas.
He also suggests that Newsquest's US parent company Gannett might be willing to get out of the newspaper business in the UK.
Preston writes: "Look at the first-quarter report from Gannett, the biggest chain in America and owner of Newsquest. Advertising 38.7% down at the British end and the outcome in dollars 27% worse than that because of sterling's slide. Economic and currency calamity. And examine how Newsquest's titles - inherited from Reed and the Westminster Press - are almost randomly spread: from Brighton to Glasgow, from Essex to Darlington. Bundle many of them for regional sell-offs and Trinity Mirror and the rest see deals that make sense if the price is right.
"The price will have to be right now, naturally, because silly bidding has brought perdition already. But if Gannett's masters, sitting sadly in Virginia, want to cut losses and problems away from their homeland base, opportunity is about to knock. If, that is, any potential bidders have the fire to do something better, not more of the same."
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