Swedish newspaper owner takes a stake in the publisher Johnston Press


A Scandinavian newspaper has bought a stake in the debt-burdened publisher i, Johnston Press.

Custos, which holds the free Swedish title Metro, announced in a stock exchange listing it has made a 5.1pc holding, putting it in Johnston Press’s top six stockholders.

The move is expected to fuel speculation over the future of Johnston Press, which is struggling for its fate under the threat of a default on its £220m debt mass. Its bonds are due for payment in 2019 and credit rating firms say it will not be capable to refinance due to unfavorable conditions in the local newspaper market that account for most of its earnings.

Johnston Press, which has a stock market appraisal of just £10.6m, is seeking a monetary restructuring that could see its lenders take charge in exchange for a decreased debt responsibility. The process is also seen as a possible catalyst for an alliance with another newspaper company.

Custos purchased Metro and its websites this year for £4.7m and announces its businesses have a turnover of higher than £50m. The investment fund is managed by Christen Ager-Hanssen, a 55-year-old Norwegian funder based in London who made and suffered a fortune in the dotcom boom and bust.

He was later implicated in budget airline consolidation with the son of Dame Shirley Porter, the Tesco heiress and once Westminster council director.

Johnston Press said in its half-year financial statement last week that following talks with shareholders and lenders it was asking support for restructuring from the trustees of its £600m pension capital.

Custos and Johnston Press were not available for an interview.