Johnston Press cuts could lead to closure of one printing press

JOHNSTON Press is believed to be preparing to close one of its two printing/production facilities here, as part of cost-cutting measures being administered following its failure to sell its Irish newspaper portfolio.

While nobody at the company’s Irish base inNaas could be reached for comment yesterday, it is thought the group’s chief executive, John Fry, was in the country to finalise measures aimed at bringing about cost savings in the Irish operations.

Last month, the Edinburgh-headquartered regional newspaper publisher shelved its plans to sell its portfolio of 13 Irish newspaper titles – most of which were acquired when it bought the Leinster Leader group four years ago – after deeming that, although “considerable interest” was shown in the business, no bid of a sufficiently high price was received.

The head of Johnston’s operations in the Republic, Barry Brennan, was recently quoted as saying that everything in the Irish operations – including the newspaper and printing operations – were being reviewed, as part of an overall group plan to cut its annual cost base by over €30 million.

Mr Brennan could not be contacted yesterday.

Johnston’s two printing facilities here are in Limerick and Kilkenny.

It is believed that Irish staff are to be formallyinformed of plans before the end of this week.

It had been hoped that Johnston’s stable of Irish titles – including the Kilkenny People and the Limerick Leader – would be sold by the end of April.

The likes of former Leinster Leader group head, John McStay; former Kilkenny People boss Joe Hayes and ex-Scottish Radio Holdings head, Richard Findlay were recognised as being on the final shortlist of interested parties.

However, once the bidding process went into May with no outcome on the horizon, doubts began to emerge over the chances of interested bidders successfully raising necessary funding from the banks.

Sure enough, in its most recent trading update, published last month, Johnston Press said: “While there was considerable interest shown from both trade and financial buyers, the board decided that it was not a sufficiently high price to be in the company’s best interest.”

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