Dunfermline Press Said to be Subject of Possible Bank-led Restructuring

One of Scotland's largest newspaper groups is said to be the subject of a possible restructuring by its bank, according to a report yesterday in the Sunday Times Scotland newspaper.

Said the Sunday newspaper, in its business section, Lloyds Bank is leading a debt-for-equity restructuring of the Dunfermline Press, following the death from bone cancer in May of its chief executive and majority shareholder, Deirdre Romanes, at the age of 60.

Sunday Times business reporter, James Ashton, wrote: “The group (Dunfermline Press) had net debt of £34 million in March 2009, after a buying spree, and has been hit by an industry-wide decline in advertising.”

Sunday Times Scotland explained that Romanes mopped up titles in the Borders, and, three years ago, paid £10 million to Trinity Mirror for the 14 titles within Berkshire Regional Newspapers, including the Reading Chronicle and Slough Express.

The paper added: “Separately, Price Waterhouse Coopers is trying to sell off Celtic Media Group, an offshoot that Romanes built up in her native Ireland. The group publishes the Anglo-Celt, The Westmeath Independent, Westmeath Examiner and The Meath Chronicle.”

The newspaper recalled that Romanes initially trained as a midwife and remained at the helm of the Dunfermline Press group after divorcing husband, Iain, whose family founded the publisher in 1859.

Through a subsidiary, Clyde and Forth Press, the group also owns the Greenock Evening Telegraph and the Clydebank Post. 

Altogether, the group currently publishes more than 30 local newspapers in the UK and Ireland.

In May, Scotland on Sunday's Erikka Askeland wrote: “The firm's most recent accounts, the year to the end of March 2009, show the firm had bank debt of £29.7 million, although most of this is repayable after five years. Nevertheless, the firm produced only £160,000 profit on a £25.3 million turnover, which turned into a £77,700 loss after tax.

“In 2008, the firm made a pre-tax loss of £1m. The firm's lender is thought to be Bank of Scotland, although a spokesman for Lloyds Banking Group refused to comment.”

She continued: “Smaller, privately owned firms thought to be interested in buying Dunfermline include Alloa-based Forth Independent Newspapers; Peter Fowler, owner of a number of Scottish media firms including Peter Press and Jacob & Johnson, and Norwich-based Archant.”