The owner of the Daily Mail has confirmed its biggest shareholder, Lord Rothermere, is close to agreeing a £400m pensions deal that would clear the final hurdle for the newspaper tycoon to take the group private.
In response to media reports late on Monday, Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) said the group and Lord Rothermere were on the brink of an agreement with trustees of its three pension schemes.
It said the deal being thrashed out includes a payment into the schemes of around £400m to help secure future funding.
Talks with the pension trustees have been holding up a formal bid from Rothermere Continuation Limited (RCL) after it made an indicative £810m proposal in July, and are now the final barrier standing in the way.
It is thought a pension deal could be announced within days, according to Sky News. This would pave the way for DMGT chair Lord Rothermere to take the firm fully back into private hands after nearly a century on the stock market.
The Rothermere family is the largest shareholder with a 36 per cent stake in the group, which has been listed on the stock market since 1932.
The City takeover panel has repeatedly extended the deadline for Lord Rothermere to make an offer or walk away, last week giving him until 5pm on 25 November.
A spokesperson for DMGT said: “DMGT confirms that DMGT and RCL are close to agreeing a deal with the trustees of DMGT’s three pension schemes.
“The deal with the trustees includes, amongst other terms, a payment into the schemes of approximately £400m.”
DMGT said it was the “last of the non-waivable pre-conditions”.
The three pre-conditions of any deal with RCL were: a successful stock market listing of used car business Cazoo, which DMGT had a stake in; the sale of the company’s insurance division, RMS; and a deal with pensioners.
Cazoo listed on the New York Stock Exchange in August and RMS was sold this month.
But the sticking point has been between pension trustees and the company, with pensioners expecting a substantial cash injection into the fund.
DMGT also owns the Mail on Sunday and Metro newspapers and recently acquired The i newspaper and New Scientist.
It has been offloading different divisions and stakes in other business interests for several years, including Hobsons, Genscape and Zoopla, which collectively raised £1.2bn.