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Shareholders back Johnston restructuring

Johnston Press's £138 million rights issue has received a 92.25 per cent take-up from shareholders who would otherwise have seen their holdings diluted more than 6.5 times.

The Edinburgh-based publisher has issued almost 4.6 billion new shares at 3p a share, with the rump of 7.75 per cent of the stock placed with institutions at 3.5p a share, it said yesterday.

Johnston's roller-coaster shares fell by over 10 per cent to 3.67p, against a 24p value before the 6.52 for one rights issue was announced on May 9, and 17p straight after the announcement. The shares hit 43p in September 2009, halved by the end of that year, rallied to 33p in April 2010, then went into a tailspin to bottom at 4.5p in November 2011.

The new shares are part of a £360m refinancing led by a £220m bond issue. Johnston said the new shares began trading yesterday, and the underwriters Panmure Gordon and JP Morgan Cazenove had successfully procured subscribers for the outstanding 355.7m shares.

The group reported net debt of £302m at the end of 2013, down from £319m in 2012.

Shareholders approved the restructuring at the company's annual meeting, unusually held in London, on May 27. Johnston said the radical refinancing would accelerate the repayment of its debt while deferring loan maturities beyond 2018. Ashley Highfield, chief exective, said it was "another key milestone" and would "provide a platform from which the group can return to overall revenue growth and generate increased surplus cash flow to grow its digital presence".

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