Gannett raises Tribune offer to about $864 million including debt

The logos of Gannett Co and its flagship newspaper, USA Today, are seen outside their corporate headquarters in McLean, Virginia, July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

(Reuters) - Gannett Co Inc GCI.N, the publisher of USA Today, raised its unsolicited offer for Tribune Publishing Co TPUB.N to $15 per share from $12.25, valuing the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times at about $475 million.

Including debt, the offer is worth about $864 million. Tribune’s shares rose 22.1 percent to $14 shortly after midday, below the latest offer, which was set at a premium of 31 percent to Tribune’s Friday close.

Tribune’s board adopted a shareholder rights plan earlier this month to thwart Gannett.

Gannett said the latest bid followed an analysis of Tribune’s debt and pension liabilities.

“In addition, after further review, Gannett has greater confidence in its ability to yield additional operational improvements in this transaction,” the company said.

Tribune said it would thoroughly review the revised offer.

Oaktree Capital Group LLC OAK.N, the third-largest shareholder in Tribune, urged the company to negotiate a deal with Gannett earlier this month. Oaktree holds a 14.8 percent stake in Tribune.

The offer comes as newspapers struggle with declining circulation, rising costs and falling advertising sales, pushing publishers to consolidate and find new areas of growth.

Gannett shares were 1.6 percent higher at $15.88.

Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Ted Kerr