3 Mar 2010 12:25

Lebedev to close purchase soon of Britain

MOSCOW. March 3 (Interfax) - Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev intends to close negotiations in the near future for the purchase of Britain's Independent News & Media (INM), the publisher of the newspaper Independent, Ledebev said himself in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

"As far as I understand most of the problems have been resolved," he said, adding that both sides still need to agree on several details.

It was earlier reported that both sides have submitted applications with Britain's Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which is the U.K.'s antimonopoly service.

The OFT is ready to hear "comments from anyone who objected to the proposed deal" until March 11.

Negotiations between both sides have continued over 12 months with breaks and slowed down owing to several problematic issues such as printing contracts, the deficit of the newspaper's pension fund and the costs for personnel downsizing.

Lebedev, who earlier heading the New Media Holding in Russia, earlier purchased the British newspaper Evening Standard and was able to reduce its losses. This newspaper is now distributed freely with circulation now up almost three times.

Independent's circulation in 2009 decreased by 14% to under 185,000 copies. The newspaper's losses are estimated at over 10 million pounds per year.