Ye olde hard-bitten news guys — the guys who wear hats, keep a flask in their drawer and look best in black-and-white photos — call this a dog-bites-man story: It’s getting hard to find people to buy newspaper companies. “Newsosaur” Alan Mutter:
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If this is a bad time to be the in the newspaper business, it is a worse time to be trying to sell a publishing company.
News Corp. conceded the weakness of the M&A market for newspapers last week, when it abandoned its efforts to sell the Ottaway division that it acquired when it bought Dow Jones last year. Ottaway operates eight dailies and 15 weeklies in seven states from New York to Oregon.
Ottaway is not alone. No buyers have materialised to date for the combined 17 dailies, 138 weeklies and a dozens of ancillary properties that have been offered for sale since the beginning of this year by Landmark Communications and Sun-Times Media Group. (Landmark did have some luck today selling its Weather Channel, but it is agreeing to take $1.5 billion less than the $5 billion it was hoping to attract.)
Another 22 dailies and 39 weeklies potentially could be added to the market by Journal Register Co., which announced earlier this year that it would review its strategic options. Although this usually signals a business is up for sale, this over-leveraged company has to come to terms with its creditors before it can formally act to put itself on the block, according to informed sources… While it’s entirely possible that transactions for some or all of the available newspapers may be announced tomorrow, the lack of interest in publishing acquisitions appears to be at a modern-day low.
Traditionally, articles like this also signal that someone savvy, ballsy investor is indeed getting ready to buy a bunch of newspapers at deflated prices, and in retrospect we’ll slap our heads looking at a missed buying opportunity. Anyone?
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