Fairfax and News may sell regional newspapers

News Corp and Fairfax are both considering their options with potential buyers looking at their regional and community newspapers, with Sydney private equity firm Allegro Funds running the numbers on both businesses.

News has hired investment bank Citi to advise on its options for a potential sale, with possible suitors including private equity firms Apollo and Anchorage.

Sydney based Anchorage Capital has been has indicated interest in both regional operations, with it being said to have progressed further with its dealings with News than with Fairfax, although not yet placing any offers.

Apollo has also been speculated to register interest in the regional sector of Fairfax, following market rumours that it first looked into the media company a year ago.

A spokesperson for News says, “We have entered exploratory talks in response to renewed interest from other parties in some of our assets. It is very much business as usual for us.”

[Related: Fairfax to stop distribution in north QLD]

News executive chairman Michael Miller told staff in an email since media reform changes last year and there has been renewed interest from suitors, the company is obliged to understand its options, particularly the long term impact to the News portfolio, proposed values and the impact to communities. The email also said no decisions have been made, but discussions were being held.

Which News publications could be up for sale is unclear but staff in some newsrooms were said to be briefed.

Fairfax declined to comment.

Financial analysts have said combining News Corp and Fairfax’s regional publishing would make for cost savings and efficiencies, including sharing print facilities. The two rivals have been in talks about sharing print facilities and distribution, already doing so in Queensland.

The companies have overseen major changes to its print sectors this year. News has recently slimmed its workers in print, reducing staff in SA and Victoria, while Fairfax cut back distribution of selected newspapers to far north Queensland, saying it was no longer commercially viable. Fairfax also shut down six of its community papers in western Sydney last year.

Among the approximate 130 titles in News Corp’s regional and community portfolio are the Gold Coast Bulletin, the Geelong Advertiser, Quest Community News in Brisbane and News Local in Sydney. News also boosted its regional presence last year when it purchased APN News & Media’s regional newspapers for $37m, which included 12 daily newspapers, 60 community titles and 30 websites based in Queensland and northern NSW.

ACM with Fairfax holds 160 regional publications and community based websites.

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