JOHNSTON Press has said it will consult bondholders as the newspaper publisher looks to refinance £220 million debt, which is due for repayment in 2019.

The company, whose titles include the i and The Scotsman, said it would approach its largest bondholders about the potential formation of an ad hoc committee. This would negotiate with it regarding the terms of a refinancing.

In March the firm launched a strategic review into the financing options in respect of the bonds.

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Chief executive Ashley Highfield said yesterday: “We are making good progress on our strategic review and this is an important step in moving things forward, in discussion with all our stakeholders.”

An industry source said the refinancing would be expected to ease the debt burden on Johnston Press in a way which would allow it to capitalise on growth opportunities. The company made £4.9m operating profit and generated £4.6m cash from operations in the first half.

Johnston Press noted that it had decided in August to focus on discussions with trustees of the group’s defined benefit pension plan following a period of initial consultations with its largest shareholders and bondholders.

It said yesterday that talks with the pension trustees are progressing.

The fund was in deficit by £53 million at 1 July.

A valuation of the fund is being completed in parallel with the strategic review.

Shares in Johnston Press closed down 1.5p at 14.5p.