Accounts for Express Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Express and Daily Star, show pre-tax profit fell 56.3% to £13.3m in 2016 from £30.5m a year earlier and turnover dropped nearly 10% to £157.1m from £173.7m.
Trinity Mirror told investors it is in talks to acquire 100% of the publishing assets of Northern & Shell, the parent company of Express Newspapers, on 8 September.
Express Newspapers’ accounts said "continued pressures on circulation volumes and print advertising revenues" had led to profit and turnover falling.
The deficit in the pension scheme, which is often an important factor for a potential bidder when considering an acquisition, increased 7.9% to £19.1m.
Express Newspapers has committed to paying £11m a year until 2020 to cover the shortfall in the pension scheme.
Northern & Shell, the owner of titles including OK!, has had on-off sale talks with Trinity Mirror since March 2015.
David Montgomery, who formerly ran the Mirror titles and Local World, tried to set up a joint venture, National World, to bring Trinity Mirror and Northern & Shell’s assets together but failed to make headway over summer 2017.
Campaign understands that Desmond also met Lord Rothermere, the chairman of DMGT, the publisher of the Daily Mail, to discuss selling assets in recent months. Northern & Shell and DMGT declined to comment.
It is thought Desmond is concentrating on selling his assets to Trinity Mirror.
According to Desmond’s autobiography, published in 2015, he rebuffed an approach from DMGT to buy the Daily Express for £200m in 2000 – just days after he had bought Express Newspapers for £100m.
Accounts for Northern & Shell Media Group show the group made a pre-tax loss of £22.7m on sales of £209m last year.
But Northern & Shell banked a huge profit from selling Channel 4 to Viacom for £450m in 2014.
If Desmond sells his publishing assets, it would mark his withdrawal from the UK media industry.