Johnston Press has said it is currently uninterested in joining a potential new regional newspaper group involving Northcliffe Media and Iliffe News & Media.
The initiative is being run by David Montgomery, formerly of newspaper acquisition company Mecom, and Trinity Mirror has already confirmed it is in talks regarding a purchase of a minority stake in the venture, called Local World.
However, whether or not the new partnerships go ahead, Johnston Press wants to focus on reducing debts. Chief executive Ashley Highfield, though, said he would watch developments with interest.
“I’m focusing on transforming our business and paying our debt down, that is our number one priority,” he told MediaGuardian. “I don’t want all my or my management’s time sucked up in mergers and acquisitions.
“Consolidation is a good thing and I am watching with interest,” he said. “If Monty does put it together it breaks the groundwork for consolidation. I’ve kept our powder dry. It is not something I’m focused on right now but given I’m a believer in consolidation it is not something I’d say no to, it depends on the timing.”
He added: “I would rather get the share price up before any M&A activity. I’d rather see the relative strength in our equity to take into any activity. We have no plans.”