Tuesday 17 March Trinity Mirror confirmed this morning that it was in talks to buy the Daily Express from Richard Desmond.
Gideon Spanier of the Times reported overnight that Trinity had been given access to the Express's accounts, quoting a source as saying that negotiations are advanced with the price and an £85m pension deficit the sticking points. Another source told Spanier that the talks were at the "information sharing stage".
The company - whose chief executive Simon Fox has said that his group was interested in acquiring new businesses "built around distinctive content or audience" - responded to the report with a statement saying that it was "at an early stage of evaluating certain of Northern & Shell's assets".
It was not clear whether the Daily Star would be included in any sale, which Spanier says could be worth £100m to Desmond.
The FT reported last December that Desmond had instructed Barclays to seek a buyer for the Express after a cost-cutting exercise aimed at reducing the paper's editorial strength by almost a third to 450.
A sale to Trinity Mirror might raise competition issues - particularly if the Star were included in the package - as it already owns the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Sunday People, Daily Record and Sunday Mail, which have a combined circulation of just over a million on weekdays and 1.4m on Sundays.
The most recent ABCs put the Express circulation of 448,256 and the Sunday Express at 391,339. The Star sells 425,614 in the week and 264,371 on Sundays.
Desmond bought the newspapers from United News and Media 15 years ago. The NUJ has accused him of running them into the ground and urged him to sell.
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