Robert Pitt fails to back Leslie Buckley vote

INM chief executive Robert Pitt did not back a vote to re-elect chairman Leslie Buckley at the company’s highly charged AGM.

Robert Pitt fails to back Leslie Buckley vote

In an indication of the divisions at board level, Mr Pitt abstained from the vote. However, it did not prevent Mr Buckley from retaining his position.

The two clashed publicly last year after it emerged Mr Pitt objected to a proposal by INM to purchase Newstalk, the radio station owned by Denis O’Brien, INM’s largest shareholder.

INM yesterday reported revenues of €148.1m for the first half of the year, down 8.4% on the same period last year. Pre-tax profits fell by 19.5%, year-on-year, to €14.9m.

Last month, the group said falling circulation, declining advertising revenue, slower digital revenue growth and Brexit uncertainty had led to “a material reduction” in its expectations for full-year profits for 2017.

It added that €2.5m costs associated with probes into its corporate governance practices and an internal review of the Newstalk bid would eat into 2017 profits.

Mr Buckley told shareholders the group does, in fact, intend to make further acquisitions despite it saying last month that potential mergers and activities were being curtailed.

He said the group would use its net cash reserves of €96m to cover obligations from its recently announced pension scheme deal and to make acquisitions.

This would shelve the award of dividends to shareholders for the foreseeable future, he added.

However, Mr Buckley said the current regulatory framework is extremely restrictive and is making it “very difficult” to carry out deals.

Both Mr Buckley and Mr Pitt said the group’s abandoned purchase of regional publisher Celtic Media had been a mutual decision borne out of costly and restrictive regulatory hurdles.

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