Lord Rothermere has secured a deadline extension to make an £810m bid to take the parent of the Daily Mail private, as pension trustees negotiate the scale of future funding payments into the company’s schemes.
The Rothermere family, which has a 30% stake in Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), had until the end of the day on Thursday to make a “put up or shut up” offer for the business.
The Takeover Panel has granted a second extension until 28 October to make an offer, as negotiations continue to secure the backing of DMGT’s pension trustees, the last of three preconditions that must be met to take the business private.
DMGT pays £16m a year into its three main pension schemes. The company has a significant pension deficit, although the scale is not known. Trustees are hoping to secure the future funding of the scheme, which could include asking for an increase in payments, or seeking an asset-backed security solution, such as against DMGT-owned property.
In August, DMGT completed the first of the preconditions, selling the insurance risk business RMS to the credit rating agency Moody’s for £1.4bn.
The second precondition was cleared when the online used car seller Cazoo made its $6bn stock market flotation in New York. DMGT owns a 17% stake in Cazoo, worth about £1bn (£745m).
While pension trustees cannot formally block the move to take the business private, they remain powerful and typically a deal is not pushed through without their backing. DMGT has made gaining their blessing a prerequisite to the takeover.
The publisher of the Daily Mail has been reorganising the business through disposals and targeted acquisitions in recent years, having bought New Scientist magazine in a £70m deal in March, as well as the i newspaper in a £49.6m deal two years ago.
The company has made £1.2bn from disposals in recent years including the sale of its stake in the property portal Zoopla, the education business Hobsons and the energy data firm Genscape.
If DMGT is taken private it will leave Reach – the parent company of the Mirror, Express and Star national titles and regional publications such as the Manchester Evening News – as the only major UK newspaper group that remains a publicly listed company on the London Stock Exchange.