Newspaper group Trinity Mirror put the Racing Post and more than 100 regional titles up for sale today as it reported falling advertising revenues and declining circulation.
The Canary Wharf-based publisher said it will offload its sports division and newspapers in the British Midlands, London and the south-east, including The South London Press, The Birmingham Post and The Coventry Telegraph.
It said it will concentrate on its national newspaper titles, such as the Daily and Sunday Mirror, its digital operations and key regional titles in Scotland, northern England and Wales.
The portfolio includes The Liverpool Echo, The Welsh Daily Post and The Newcastle Chronicle.
Trinity Mirror also revealed that it turned down a takeover approach for the national titles as it ruled out their demerger from the regional business.
Conference and exhibitions operator Marcus Evans is thought to have offered between £550m (€819m) and £600m (€893.5m) for the nationals, far less than the £800m (€1.2bn) he offered in 2004.
The Racing Post is valued by analysts at around £200m (€297.8m) while the 138 regional titles up for sale are thought to be worth up to £550m.
Rival publisher Johnston Press, which owns The Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman, is understood to be interested in the regional newspapers up for sale.
The decision to sell the newspapers followed a strategic review launched in August as Trinity Mirror struggled with a tough advertising market and a falling readership.
Media analyst James Healy, of Ernst & Young, said: “The outcome of the strategic review appears somewhat muted, but largely as expected.
“A full break-up of the regionals and nationals would have been a bolder call, but the sale of The Racing Post and some regionals is a halfway house.
“However, if the market fails to improve significantly, Trinity Mirror may be announcing a similar review in 12 months' time, which could then result in a full demerger.”
It is thought that the sale of the regional titles could be tougher than that of The Racing Post. The Daily Mail & General Trust tried to sell its regional newspaper business Northcliffe earlier this year but failed to find anyone willing to meet its valuation.
Mr Healy said: “While Trinity Mirror may well want to sell those regional newspapers which are under-performing, who will want to buy them?
“Daily Mail & General Trust tried to sell its regional newspaper business, Northcliffe, earlier this year, but failed to find a buyer at the right price.
“Either Trinity Mirror will have to accept fire-sale prices or hope that someone out there can see valuable long-term potential in these assets, but given that Trinity Mirror is the UK’s largest newspaper publisher, if they can’t build a business case for further investment, who can?”
Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey said the regionals businesses in the Midlands, London and the south-east did not offer the same opportunities for the group as those elsewhere and were likely to be more attractive to other owners.
Among the newspapers on the block is The Birmingham Mail, which has a circulation of more than 100,000 and a readership of 360,000.
The review also concluded that the sports division, principally The Racing Post, had minimal overlap in terms of readership, advertising base or editorial content with the group’s other titles.
Trinity said it would look to safeguard The Racing Post brand as part of any deal.