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The deal will give DMGT about a 29% share of the national newspaper market and will be reviewed by the Competition and Markets Authority. Photograph: The Guardian

Daily Mail owner buys the i newspaper for £49.6m

DMGT will integrate some operations but appears to rule out editorial job cuts

WT24 Desk

The owner of the Daily Mail has bought the i newspaper and website for £49.6m as a new wave of media consolidation hits the UK national and regional newspaper market, The Guardian reports.

The deal immediately prompted the ire of the Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who tweeted his dismay at the UK national newspaper industry becoming increasingly controlled by “two billionaire press barons”.

The acquisition of the title by the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), which is chaired and controlled by Jonathan Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere), cements its place as the second biggest owner of national newspapers with a portfolio including the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Metro.

The biggest player remains Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, which owns The Sun, Sun on Sunday, The Times and the Sunday Times.

DMGT had been the frontrunner to seal a deal after entering exclusive talks with the i’s parent, JPI Media, in September.

Lord Rothermere said he would not seek to influence the “politically independent editorial style” of the i or shift it in the direction of the rightwing position the Mail titles held.

“We are committed to preserving its distinctive, high-quality and politically independent editorial style,” he said. “It is a highly respected publication with a loyal and engaged readership.”

The deal will give DMGT a 29% share of the national newspaper market and will be reviewed by the Competition and Markets Authority. However, it is unlikely to run into any competition problems as News UK, the publisher of the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times, controls about 36% of the UK market.

DMGT will seek cost savings by integrating IT, back-office and sales functions with its own operations, although Rothermere appeared to rule out editorial job cuts. The i is also conveniently located in the same building as its own titles in Northcliffe House on Derry Street, London.

“The acquisition of the i is both strategically and financially compelling for DMGT and there is scope for potential synergies in the future, notably from DMG Media’s existing infrastructure and in advertising sales,” Rothermere said. “The business will benefit from DMGT’s long-term approach and commitment to investing in editorial content.”

He added that the company planned to invest in inews.co.uk – “a growing digital media asset” – that attracts about 300,000 daily unique browsers.

The i made an operating profit of £11m from £34m of revenues last year. JPI Media, which is also selling a portfolio of regional titles including the Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, bought the i from Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of the Independent and Evening Standard, for £24m in 2016.

A new wave of consolidation is brewing in the industry, with the Barclay brothers putting the Daily and Sunday Telegraph up for sale last month. This week the chief executive of the Belgian media group Mediahuis confirmed his potential interest in bidding if a formal process is kicked off, which the Guardian reported in October.

Mediahuis seeks to be a consolidator, this year paying €145.6m (£125.2m) to buy Independent News and Media, publisher of the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent. INM is chaired by Murdoch MacLennan, a former chief executive of Telegraph Media Group who has encouraged a bid for his former employer.

DMGT, which also owns the freesheet Metro, attempted to acquire the i last year for £24m just before its parent company, Johnston Press, was put into administration after being brought to its knees by a £220m debt burden. The 252-year old publisher’s lenders took control of the business and in July moved to put the business up for sale.

The sale of the i will pave the way for a deal to be finalised for JPI Media’s extensive portfolio of regional titles. The frontrunner is Newsquest, the UK’s second-biggest regional newspaper group, which publishes 200 titles, including the Argus in Brighton and Glasgow’s Evening Times. The regional titles could fetch up to £100m.

The publicly listed Reach, which owns national and regional titles including the Mirror, the Daily Express and the Manchester Evening News, officially pulled out of bidding for JPI Media’s regional assets on Friday. The company, which is understood to have tabled a bid of about £50m, had been in talks since July.

“We have a disciplined approach to value,” said Jim Mullen, the new chief executive of Reach. “It didn’t get over the disciplined hurdle we set.”

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