UK Express owner signals interest in buying Sun

* Desmond says industry consolidation has to happen

* OK! publisher indicates has 1 bln pound warchest

LONDON, June 4 (BestGrowthStock) – Briton Richard Desmond, porn
publisher and owner of Express Newspapers, indicated on Friday
that he would be interested in buying the country’s top-selling
daily tabloid, the Sun, pledging to run it more efficiently.

The founder of Northern & Shell, which also publishes
various celebrity magazines including the popular OK!, said he
expected consolidation in the newspaper industry and that he
hoped to play a leading role.

“I think consolidation has to happen, has to happen,” he
told BBC radio. “I’m not going away, and I don’t play golf, so I
would hope to be in the vanguard.”

When asked which newspaper he would like to buy, Desmond
said: “It’s pretty obvious isn’t it who I’d like to buy, so I’m
not going to answer it and you can work it out for yourself.”

He made clear he was not interested in buying the tabloid
Mirror or the right-leaning Daily Telegraph.

When pushed on whether it was the Sun, published by Rupert
Murdoch’s News International, he replied: “Work it out for
yourself.”

The owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star said he had
enough money for the purchase, suggesting he was sitting on a 1
billion pound ($1.46 billion) warchest, but added any deal would
need a willing seller as well as a willing buyer.

News International, the British publisher owned by News Corp
(NWSA.O: ), later said the paper with a circulation of around
three million “was not for sale”.

“News International are proud owners of the country’s
favourite paper,” it added.

Desmond, who left school at the age of 14, is one of
Britain’s richest men, having built up a fortune based on the
adult industry and newspaper business.

He became known for wielding the axe at the Express titles
after paying 125 million pounds for them in 2000.

Desmond said he had no idea whether News International would
sell, saying it would depend on a variety of factors including
price.

“I think we would run it in a different manner which would
be more efficient in today’s marketplace,” he said.

He would not say whether he had discussed the matter with
News Corp Chief Executive Murdoch, only saying they had spoken
about many things.

Sales of the racy Star have been robust during the general
downturn but circulation of the Express has dwindled over the
years.

Media commentator Roy Greenslade suggested Desmond’s
comments should not be taken seriously and that he would face a
“rather high competition hurdle”.

“Surely, he is having a laugh,” he wrote in his blog on the
Guardian website.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/jun/04/richard-desmond-sun

Investment Advice

(Writing by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Michael Shields)

UK Express owner signals interest in buying Sun