Guardian Media Group has confirmed it has held exploratory talks over the sale of its flagship regional newspaper, Manchester Evening News, as well as its other regional titles. Reports claimed a possible sale of the MEN is on the cards to Trinity Mirror, which prints GMG’s regional titles. The chance of a sale has been dismissed by one industry source as highly speculative, while GMG described the talks as being in their early stages. A spokesman for GMG said: “In line with its remit, GMG keeps its portfolio under review on an ongoing basis. Since the publication of the Digital Britain report, we have been considering the potential for further consolidation within the regional press sector and, as part of this, there have some exploratory talks regarding our regional media business.
“However, these are a very early state and it is not clear whether they will progress or what the outcome is likely to be.” Earlier this year, the company opted not to sell off its Sunday newspaper, The Observer. Instead, it culled a number of the paper’s magazines resulting in a slimmed-down version of the title, in order to cut costs. GMG is owned by the Scott Trust, whose function is to protect the editorial and financial independence of The Guardian. GMG publishes more than 20 regional titles and broadcaster Channel M as part of its regional operations.
Its latest financial results, for the period to March 2009, showed GMG’s regional’s operations posted a fall in operating profit, from £14.3m to £0.5m, after it was hit by steep declines in recruitment advertising (down 34%) and property (46%). Turnover was down from £120.5m to £94.5m. GMG Regional Media, which in April this year announced 300 job losses, said trading conditions had worsened since March, and it had been a making a monthly trading loss for six months. Trinity Mirror declined to comment.