INM ‘optimistic’ over pension plan

Independent News & Media (INM) expects imminent Pensions Board approval for its pension scheme restructuring plans, adding it is “optimistic” regarding an agreement.

INM ‘optimistic’ over pension plan

Along with all other resolutions put to them at yesterday’s AGM in Dublin, shareholders voted in favour of the one that allows for the adoption of an employee benefit trust, which will ultimately take a 5% stake in the group.

As part of plans to cut its €130m pensions deficit, INM has already said staff are set to see a 39% cut in their pension entitlements, while around €5.6m will be pumped into the scheme, per annum, over the next decade.

Save for a couple of mishaps — including a fire alarm interruption and chair Leslie Buckley suffering a brief Freudian slip and uttering the name ‘Digicel’ when switching the subject to INM’s digital strategy — management did a decent job in communicating its recovery message.

CEO Vincent Crowley noted the group’s financial restructuring plan — which is roughly two-thirds completed, awaiting a €40m capital-raising exercise before the end of the year — should, ultimately slash INM’s net debt to a more manageable level of €118m and give management the flexibility to invest in the business and rebuild shareholder value. He said a more comfortable balance sheet will also remove pressure from lenders “on how we run our business”.

The AGM came a week after INM’s first-half 2013 financial results, which showed an 8.2% annualised drop in group revenue, but also a slashing of pre-tax losses and an 8% increase in digital revenues.

Asked for a timeframe regarding the potential resumption of dividend payments to shareholders, Mr Buckley said naming a definitive date would be impossible, at this time, but noted that “like all shareholders,” the board would like to see payments resume “sooner rather than later”.

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