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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Rob Davies

Barclay family aim to regain Telegraph control with UAE backing – report

Copy of the Daily Telegraph in a letterbox
The parent companies of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles as well as the Spectator fell into receivership in June. Photograph: Chris Batson/Alamy

The Barclay family are reportedly trying to regain control of the Telegraph newspaper group with financial support from investors in the Middle East, months after surrendering the debt-laden business to Lloyds Banking Group.

The parent companies of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles as well as the Spectator fell into receivership in June, presenting a rare opportunity for a wealthy investor to take charge of one of Britain’s most influential newspaper groups.

Media moguls pondering a bid are understood to include Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail, while National World, a regional newspaper business headed by the veteran newspaperman David Montgomery, has publicly declared an interest.

The Barclays have put forward a proposal under which they would buy back about £1bn of debt that the group owes to Lloyds, according to Sky News, which first reported the move, citing City sources.

The family are understood to have secured investment from anonymous backers based in Abu Dhabi. Under their proposals, the Barclays and their co-investors would rebuy the debt they owe Lloyds for up to £600m.

While this would represent a discount on the £1bn owed to Lloyds, the bank has previously written down the value of the debt, meaning the offer would allow for a significant writeback – an increase in the paper value of the debt.

Lloyds is understood to be keen to press ahead with an auction process run by Goldman Sachs that is expected to commence this autumn. The bank’s chief executive, Charlie Nunn, said last month that he did not want to enter into a “rushed sale”.

Any tussle over who acquires the Telegraph titles and the Spectator is likely to be complicated by regulatory concerns. A bid from Rothermere would be expected to attract scrutiny from ministers, whose limited powers to intervene in private company takeovers include the ability to block a deal on the grounds of media plurality.

The involvement of foreign investors in the Barclays’ bid to return as proprietors of the Telegraph could also become an issue.

The Barclays are understood to be hopeful of persuading Lloyds that their own bid would not require a lengthy clearance process that could last beyond the next UK general election, potentially putting the takeover of a rightwing newspaper at the mercy of a Labour government.

The hedge fund boss Sir Paul Marshall, a major backer of GB News, and the Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský have also been named as potential bidders.

The Telegraph newspaper group was chaired until June by Aidan Barclay, a nephew of Sir Frederick Barclay, who along with his brother Sir David Barclay oversaw the takeover of the Telegraph in 2004.

The Guardian has approached a spokesperson for the Barclays for comment.

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