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Express Newspapers sold four of its Web sites for a £1 yesterday in a bid to stem the haemorrhage of cash from the business.

Richard Desmond, the new owner of Express Newspapers, is reported to have been "shocked" at the cash burn rate.

The sites are said to be costing the company around £8 million a year to run.

The lucky buyer of allaboutparents.co.uk, companyleader.com, express.co.uk and sportlive.co.uk is stockbroker Seymour Pierce - which also represents Desmond.

In effect, Seymour Pierce is an intermediary. It is mothballing Web operations while it looks for a buyer of these four me-too titles.

An announcement on sportlive reads: "LATEST NEWS: Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are unable to update SportLive from Thursday, December 14 until further notice. We hope to see you all soon."

The other sites still appear to be functioning.

According to the Guardian, the sites are to be mothballed until a buyer can be found.

Of course, this uncertainty does nothing for those still "employed" on the titles. The Register has learnt that around 40 Web design staff have been advised not to say or do anything because their (as yet unconfirmed) redundancy packages "hang in the balance".

Which means they're not allowed to comment or look for work elsewhere.

This latest news from the new owner of Express Newspapers will only serve to make matters worse. ®

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