INM shares spike as bid discussions confirmed

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INM shares spike as bid discussions confirmed

Irish media giant could be sold


Approach to company: INM chief executive Michael Doorly
Approach to company: INM chief executive Michael Doorly

Shares in Independent News & Media (INM) rose 30.5pc – to 9.5c each – yesterday after it announced an approach from a potential buyer.

The company told the stock market that it had “received an approach in relation to a possible offer for the company”.

“Discussions are at a preliminary stage and there is no certainty that any offer will be made, or as to the terms of any such offer,” the company said. It did not name the interested party and would not comment further.

Potential buyers were also tight-lipped yesterday. German group Axel Springer and Norwegian company Schibsted have previously been speculated about as potential buyers of INM, as has Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns ‘The Sun’ and ‘Sunday Times’ titles here.

Axel Springer – whose titles include ‘Die Welt’, ‘Bild’ and ‘Business Insider’ – said: “We in general don’t comment on market rumours”. The German group is understood not to be interested in a move for INM.

Schibsted said: “In general, we never comment on rumours and speculations about acquisitions, regardless of whether they are true or not.”

A spokeswoman for News Corp subsidiary News UK said it “does not comment on speculation”.

INM is the largest private media group on the island of Ireland and publishes titles including the Irish Independent, ‘Herald’, ‘Sunday Independent’, ‘Belfast Telegraph’, ‘Sunday World’ and Independent.ie. Last week it reported profit before tax of €24.1m for 2018, ahead of market expectations but down 15.4pc on the prior year.

INM’s total revenues last year were €191m, down 2.1pc on 2017. The business had a cash pile of €81.7m at the end of December.

INM’s largest shareholder is Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien, who owns 29.9pc of the business. Financier Dermot Desmond is the second biggest with 15pc, held via his vehicle International Investment & Underwriting (IIU).

Last week, INM chief executive Michael Doorly said speculation in the maket that the company could be a target for takeover by a larger European media business was prompted by its low share price. He said there was no indication major shareholders in the company were minded to sell.

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INM is moving towards introducing a paid model for some online content, potentially from the end of this year, with revenue from newspaper circulation and total online and print advertising falling last year.

It has been hit by exceptional legal costs (€3.5m in 2018) that are linked to the high-profile investigations under way into INM by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and Data Protection Commission. These have been prompted by whistleblower allegations about corporate governance at board level and alleged data breaches.

Irish Independent

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