Britain's Johnston Press exploring options for debt restructuring

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(Reuters) - Johnston Press <JPR.L> is exploring options to restructure or refinance its debt, the British regional newspaper publisher said on Thursday in a statement issued after its shares more than doubled in morning trade.

However, Johnston Press, which owns more than 200 local and regional newspapers including The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post, said it had not received any proposal from any party for a refinancing or restructuring of its debt.

Johnston Press's statement came a day after its biggest investor said it was willing to help refinance the company and called on the board to consult shareholders on its options.

The company announced in March 2017 that it would conduct a strategic review of its financing options for a 220 million pound bond due for repayment in June 2019.

Activist investor Custos, which has a 20.2 percent stake in the publisher, wrote on Friday to the company's board to seek clarification on whether it had, or planned to, instruct administrators, a letter seen by Reuters showed.

Johnston Press has responded to the letter, according to a source familiar with the matter.

"If we are going to refinance the bond, we need to look into the books, we need to sign a (non-disclosure agreement), we need to have a dialogue," Custos CEO Christen Ager-Hanssen told Reuters on Tuesday.

"I will not send a proposal to a public company that is distressed."

The company has struggled with declining revenue as advertisers increasingly use online platforms, drawing the attention of Custos, which has previously sought to oust the company's chairman.

A company spokesman said on Tuesday that if Ager-Hanssen did have a workable proposal to refinance the business, the company would look forward to receiving it.

Johnston Press shares had more than doubled in morning trade on Tuesday. It pared some of the gains to trade up 69 percent at 6 pence by 0127 GMT.

(Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Susan Fenton and Edmund Blair)

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