Will it be slash and burn as Trinity Mirror looks to gobble up Local World for £200m?

Is there anything to fear from Trinity Mirror gobbling up Local World? TM already owns around 20 per cent of LW so surely it’s just one big family hug which will only cost £200m?

I only wish this was the case. From statements coming out of TM it is clear the marriage is not one which will be full of joy.

Trinity Mirror is looking to buy Local World in a £200m deal.

Trinity Mirror is looking to buy-out Local World in a £200m deal.

TM managers are already talking about, and I quote, there will “probably be staff savings and scale advantages in print plus some office savings.”

Why they have used the word probably, goodness knows, of course there are savings, from all the backroom HR work to those over-stretched advertising departments. Slash and burn, no-one will be safe in this rationalisation, not even those in the dark corners of the accounting departments.

As for the poor journalists, it will leave the door opening for content sharing with the inevitable consequence of slicing more journalists out of the newsroom.

Those in the firing line will be editors (who needs three when the job can be done by one…?!), the content editors (production), subs to you older folk (what’s the point in headlines and checking) and photographic departments (everyone can take a picture now, really?).

Are there any good points to this takeover which will mean the merger of 240 TM papers and 100 from LW plus all the web sites? The group would certainly have massive power in the commercial market with a huge audience both in print and online.

It is also obvious that these sort of deals have to be cut to keep the regional newspaper business rolling as it loses its newspaper readers.

Selling across all the titles would also look a good proposition to advertisers, it is only when the amount paid for the advert is split across all titles the top line starts to look slightly thin to the local centres in the scramble to survive.

In TM’s statement they acknowledge there is a risk of the deal being blocked by regulators, but described the regulatory environment as “a lot more favourable than it was several years ago.”

TM is spot on with this. When Northcliffe Media and Illfe News & Media joined forces I was surprised how the mergers and monopolies crew turned a blind eye to parts of the deal.

Take Staffordshire. It was obvious that joining Northcliffe’s Stoke Sentinel and the Tamworth Herald group of newspapers together with Iliffe’s Leek Post&Times and the Staffordshire Newsletter gave the new LW a massive footprint in the area.

For many communities in Staffordshire, they have little or no choice of any other media. However, it was waved through without a bat of an eyelid. So TM will have few fears in that department.

Then you look at the price. Paying £200m for a newspaper business in this day and age is risky. TM made £102m in 2014 and then put aside £12m of this to handle civil complaints in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

The TM profit was in part due to, yes you’ve guessed it, to cost-cutting.

LW’s profits also don’t look great, the reality is that after taking off all the cash owed to shareholders the most recent profit was just £11m.

The outcome of the buy-out will be a Manchester United lead from TM’s MEN appearing in the Stoke Sentinel or Hull Daily Mail as the stricken editorial teams look to fill those holes in their newspaper.

So much for local journalism.

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