A FOURTH deadline extension to the standstill agreement between Independent News & Media (INM) and its lenders over the refinancing of its overdue €200 million bond is thought likely to be necessary.
However, it is understood the media group’s management remains positive an agreement will be reached in due course.
Just prior to the publication of INM’s first half results last month, the group was granted a third extension to its bond refinancing talks, to September 25. That deadline is now likely to be extended further.
That the Gavin O’Reilly-led INM board remains positive about its chances of reaching an agreement with lenders seems to be at odds with the thoughts of businessman, Denis O’Brien, INM’s second largest shareholder, with 26%.
Mr O’Brien yesterday reconfirmed his doubts about the ability of the INM bosses to reach an agreement with the bondholders.
Conveying his hope for “some kind of consensual deal” on the bond issue, Mr O’Brien reiterated his previously stated doubt over the INM board’s ability to reach such a deal and his opposition to the group keeping its loss making UK titles, the Independent and Independent on Sunday, open. Earlier this month advisers for Mr O’Brien said closing the titles was the best option, claiming they are losing €27m per year, or €75,000 per day, and their return to profitability is “unrealistic“.
INM yesterday declined to comment on Mr O’Brien’s statements, but it has said in the past couple of weeks that the cost of bringing the London titles to break-even point – something management feels is possible inside two years – would be less than the £30m, or so, needed to close them down.
With regard to the bond re-financing talks, INM chief executive Gavin O’Reilly said when announcing the group’s latest results that good progress was being made, even though there could be no guarantee a further deadline extension would not be necessary. Speculation has since mounted that an equity offer could be made to bondholders. Part of Mr O’Brien’s reason for calling for an extraordinary general meeting, however, was secure a resolution preventing INM directors allotting and issuing shares.
INM’s shares were trading at 34c, yesterday, a 12.33% (4c) increase on Wednesday’s close.
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