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Barclay family repays £1.2bn debt to Lloyds amid potential sale of Telegraph

Lloyds seized the newspaper group during the summer (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Lloyds seized the newspaper group during the summer (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The Barclay family has repaid the nearly £1.2 billion that it owed to Lloyds Bank, opening up its chance to transfer control of the Telegraph newspaper to an Abu Dhabi-backed fund.

However, the Government has launched a probe into the proposed takeover of the newspaper and fellow publication The Spectator by the fund, amid concerns over the security and free speech implications.

Lloyds confirmed that it had received the money on Monday, after seizing control of Telegraph Media Group in June over the unpaid debt.

It then tried to sell the newspaper group and the Spectator, which are both read closely by Conservative Party politicians and supporters.

Daily Telegraph potential sale
The offices of the Telegraph Media Group in central London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Lloyds said the debt of Penultimate Investments Holding Limited (PIHL), the holding company, had been repaid and the titles have been removed from receivership.

“We can confirm the repayment of the PIHL facilities has now completed,” it said.

“We are always keen to work constructively with customers who get into difficulty with their repayments to reach an amicable solution.

“We’d like to thank all parties for their role in reaching this point.”

The Barclays had last month reached a deal with RedBird IMI to get help to pay back the debts. RedBird IMI would then take over control of the newspaper group.

RedBird IMI is led by the former boss of CNN, Jeff Zucker. It is part owned by US firm RedBird Capital.

But it is the other joint owner, International Media Investments of Abu Dhabi, which has worried the Government.

IMI is part of a sovereign wealth fund linked to Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the royal family in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Last week the Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, asked watchdog Ofcom to launch a probe into whether the sale to RedBird IMI would impact the accurate presentation of news and freedom of expression in the Telegraph titles.

Ms Frazer said “there may be public interest considerations” with the change of ownership which “warrant further investigation”.

The regulator has until January 26 next year to report back to the minister.

RedBird IMI said that it would “co-operate fully with the Government and regulator”.