‘Could take six years to resume dividend payments’

It could take up to six years for Independent News & Media to resume dividend payments to its shareholders, with chairman Leslie Buckley yesterday saying that group performance in the next two years will be critical to chances of an early resumption.

Asked by one shareholder at yesterday’s EGM to pass INM’s latest capital raising plans, if the board might be in a position to pay a dividend in the foreseeable future, Mr Buckley said that they “would like to think we could be”.

When asked if the timeframe could be as long as five or six years, Mr Buckley replied: “It could be”.

Vincent Crowley — INM’s chief executive — said that management would like to pay a dividend but it would be prudent to say that it will take some time before one can be paid.

Management was also asked by shareholders whether the company was likely to be in a position where it had to raise further funds from another share placement in the coming months.

In response, Mr Buckley said this latest move was a once-off and puts INM in a good position for the next number of years; adding that the group remains well-positioned to benefit from the recovery in the economy.

Mr Buckley was also asked, from the floor, whether any restrictions to making an outright takeover bid were in place against key shareholders such as Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond.

He said that no restrictions were in place regarding the share placing, but that there was no intention as to the latter by either shareholder.

Asked whether INM might be interested in boosting its domestic regional title portfolio by bidding for the Irish titles reportedly being put up for sale by British newspaper publisher, Johnston Press, Mr Crowley said that the status of such a sale process is still unclear.

However, he noted that INM is now back in business and continues to be on the lookout for growth opportunities; also noting that it remains profitable in its regional division.

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