A will-they, won’t-they merger dance between Trinity Mirror and Express Newspapers has picked up again after a two-year hiatus with the Daily Mirror publisher once more in discussion with Northern & Shell boss Richard Desmond about taking a minority stake in his publishing business.
The latest talks are said to focus on a merger of parts of their respective operations, as both sides seek a mutually agreeable deal following the collapse of a more ambitious full sale of Express Newspapers to Trinity.
Stumbling blocks two years ago focused on price and onerous pension liabilities carried by Desmond’s titles but both parties remain keen to realise significant savings which could accrue from a merger of back office and sales departments.
UK newspaper publishers are increasingly coming to the view that the only way to remain competitive against digital goliaths such as Google and Facebook is to scale-up print and digital sales through mergers, as evidenced by a joint publisher initiative - Project Juno - between six major newspaper groups including Northern & Shell and Trinity Mirror.
Express Newspapers has bucked the trend of declining income by posting a tripling of pre-tax profits in 2015 to £30.5m after taking an axe to editorial staff and driving down print costs.