Newsquest is on the brink of a merger with Archant that will establish one of Britain’s two biggest regional newspaper publishing groups.
Sky News has learnt that Newsquest, which is owned by the giant US publisher Gannett, could seal the purchase of East Anglia-based Archant within days.
A deal, which is understood to be valued at between £10m and £15m, will unite the publishers of the North Wales Pioneer and the Eastern Daily Press.
It has been on the cards since Newsquest secured a period of exclusivity several weeks ago.
Archant, which was acquired by the turnaround investor Rcapital in 2020, owns some of Britain’s best-known local newspapers, including London’s Ham & High Express and the Eastern Daily Press.
Larger rival to Reach
For Newsquest, a merger with Archant would fill a major geographical gap in its portfolio and create an even larger rival to Reach, the listed publisher of The Daily Mirror, and JPI Media, the company which used to be known as Johnston Press.
Archant was established in 1845, with the Colman family whose name went on to adorn the famous brand of English mustard one of the company’s founders.
Since Rcapital bought Archant, the company has been restructured, with much of its management team being replaced.
The deal saw Archant requiring support from the Pension Protection Fund, the industry lifeboat, which took a 10% stake in the business.
Archant previously owned The New European, which was subsequently sold to a consortium which included the former BBC director-general Mark Thompson and the former Financial Times editor Lionel Barber.
Google partnership to develop new model
Many of the titles published by the likes of Archant and Newsquest have scrapped their print editions and become online-only newspapers in recent years.
Archant has had some success at reinventing itself for a digital age, drawing millions of unique monthly visitors to its titles’ websites.
In 2019, it struck a landmark partnership with Google, the online search giant, to develop a new model for local digital news.
Newsquest’s portfolio also includes the Watford Observer and Wirral Globe.
The American-owned company explored a bid for Archant when it was last on the market, according to reports at the time.
Rcapital declined to comment.