CanWest sells 4 Ontario dailies to pay down debt


Winnipeg, - CanWest Global Communications Corp. is selling four daily newspapers and other publications in southern Ontario to Osprey Media Holdings Inc. for $193.5 million.

Canada's largest newspaper publisher and second-biggest private broadcaster said money raised from today's announced sale will be used to pay down CanWest's massive $3.8 billion debt.

The Winnipeg company said it has already received all necessary regulatory approvals for the transaction, which is slated to close in mid-February.

The properties being sold to Osprey include four dailies - the St. Catharines Standard, Brantford Expositor, Niagara Falls Review and The Welland Tribune _ and several weeklies, shoppers and other publications.

In total, the papers contributed gross profits of about $22 million to CanWest's books in the fiscal year ended last Aug. 31.

The sale continues CanWest's divestment of smaller papers so the company can focus on its National Post flagship and Southam chain of big city dailies from Vancouver to Montreal. Last year, CanWest sold 10 dailies in Atlantic Canada and Saskatchewan and other publications to Montreal-based Transcontinental Group for $255 million.

``This sale to Osprey is consistent with our previously announced intention to divest non-strategic assets,'' Leonard Asper, CanWest's president and chief executive, said in a release. ``The price, in our view, reflects fair value for these publications. While valuable in their own right, these properties are not central to the company's strategy, which is focused upon creating and exploiting a multi-media presence in Canada's larger urban markets, but they do represent a strategic acquisition to Osprey.''

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