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Newspaper group Lee Enterprises files for bankruptcy

(Reuters) - Lee Enterprises Inc , which publishes 48 daily newspapers including St. Louis Post-Dispatch, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to refinance nearly $1 billion in debt, as newspapers struggle with falling advertisement dollars and dwindling readership.

In a filing with Delaware bankruptcy court, Lee Enterprises listed liabilities of $994.5 million and assets of $1.15 billion.

The bankruptcy filing plan comes two months after the company had reached an agreement with most its lenders to refinance $769.5 million of its distressed loans.

Most local newspaper publishers in the United States have been hit by dropping circulation and falling advertising revenue, forcing them to sell off or shut several publications.

Tribune Co, the owner of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune newspapers, had earlier filed a third reorganization plan with the U.S. bankruptcy court.

Lee was founded in 1890 in Ottumwa, Iowa, by A.W. Lee. Most of the company's newspapers trace their beginnings to the mid-1800s. Among Lee's alumni are Mark Twain, Willa Cather and Thornton Wilder.

The case is: Lee Enterprises, Case No. 11-13918, U.S. bankruptcy court, District of Delaware.

(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

(This story was corrected in paragraph 1 to make clear the company is refinancing debt, not slashing it)

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