Defined Benefit  

Johnston Press DB scheme enters PPF assessment

Johnston Press DB scheme enters PPF assessment

The Pension Protection Fund is to assess the defined benefit pension scheme of the Johnston Press Group, following the acquisition of the group by JPIMedia.

Johnston Press, publisher of the I and The Scotsman, was acquired by JPIMedia on 17 November after announcing it was seeking a buyer last month.

The sale triggered the PPF assessment period for the DB scheme. An official for the PPF confirmed the move, but declined to comment on a specific date for when the assessment would start.

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The Johnston Press DB scheme, which has 4,959 members and was closed to future accrual on 2010, has a deficit of more than £40m and covers 250 employees.

After discussions about the scheme it was confirmed the current trustees will continue to be responsible for the scheme while JPIMedia will provide a defined contribution pension scheme for all employees.

David King, chief executive officer at Johnston Press, will take up the same role at JPIMedia. He said: "The sale of the business to JPIMedia is an important one for the Johnston Press businesses as it ensures that operations can continue as normal, with employees’ rights maintained, suppliers paid, and newspapers printed."

JPIMedia is a newly-formed company owned by bondholders of Johnston Press.

The company had been in talks with creditors and interested parties about restructuring or refinancing bonds worth £220m, which become due for repayment on 1 June 2019.

As part of the transaction, the bondholders have agreed to reduce the level of senior secured debt by £135m (more than 60 per cent), from £220m to £85m, with extended debt maturity to December 2023.

Additionally, the bondholders have provided £35m in funding for the business.

John Ensall, director of JPIMedia, said: "In the absence of another financial solution being available for the business, we are pleased to have reached this agreement to acquire Johnston Press, to protect the value of the business, preserve jobs and allow for the uninterrupted publication of its websites and newspapers."

Venilia Batista Amorim is a freelance writer for FTAdviser