Desmond plans to call his new evening paper London-i

LONDON - Richard Desmond, the Express Newspapers owner, plans to call his new evening freesheet newspaper, which will take on Associated Newspapers' Evening Standard and Metro, the London i.

According to a report in The Observer, Desmond has registered the name for the paper, first talked about last year. The paper's title has already led to a battle with Associated, which stopped him using the Evening Mail name.

Earlier dummies shown to the press were of a paper called PM. News of the new name followed the announcement by Desmond last month that he still planned to launch, after months of silence as the original launch date of spring 2003 came and went.

The launch is now waiting on the outcome of an Office of Fair Trading investigation into the distribution deal that Associated and its parent Daily Mail & General Trust has with London Underground.

Desmond has argued that the deal is anti-competitive because it effectively blocked out rival firms launching their own freesheet newspapers to compete with the highly successful Metro.

If Desmond can not break Associated's deal with London Underground, industry experts doubt his paper will ever get off the ground. There was talk last year that he was in talks with retailers, but this plan would not give London i the reach of its Metro rival.

In a statement issued by Northern & Shell last month, Desmond said: "We are waiting for a ruling from the OFT prior to launching the paper. All we're asking for is a level playing field in this competitive environment. I look forward to a decision from the OFT regarding distribution issues. I'm looking forward to getting this paper into the hands of Londoners."

Northern & Shell has confirmed that it has a team in place to launch a new title, having last year hired a number of senior staff to work on the paper.

There is still no news on the name of an editor to replace Nick Ferrari, the former tabloid journalist, television executive and host on London talk-radio station LBC 97.3FM, who was named editor of the proposed paper in February 2003, but has since severed his links with Northern & Shell.

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