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Express websites sold for £1 as United cuts back

LONDON - Richard Desmond, the new owner of Express Newspapers, has sold the company’s four websites to a stockbroker for the nominal price of £1. The news came as United News & Media announced plans to halve its online investment.

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Desmond, who is said to have been aghast at the websites' rate of cash burn, sold the four sites to stockbroker Seymour Pierce. It is understood that Seymour Pierce hopes to sell them as going concerns, but if a buyer cannot be found quickly the sites will be temporarily shut down and sold later.

The websites involved are,, and

United News & Media has U-turned on its February announcement, which saw the setting up of internet division Xilerate, to invest a total of £370m in the internet by slashing this in half to £180m. The decision means United will spend £60m next year, compared with the £120m it spent this year. The company is also selling its consumer websites, including the BT joint venture ISP LineOne, Dotmusic and Megastar.

The consumer sites do not now fit in with United's plans to transform Xilerate into a B2B operation with the new name United Business Media International.

United will also go ahead with a share buyback worth £1.25bn, believed to be one of the biggest in UK history. The cash for the buyback came from the sale of United's ITV assets to Granada Media.

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