MANAGEMENT atIndependent News & Media (INM) may have stayed silent yesterday, but the group’s share price rose by nearly 20% to 23 cent on the back of renewed speculation that a sale of not only its London-based newspapers but also its Indian-based interests are imminent.
And in an unexpected move last night the company put back the date of its preliminary results from April 24 to April 30. INM is in the midst of a major cost-cutting round, as it looks to lower its €1.4 billion debt andrepay a €200m bond.
As well as pay cuts for its Irish newspaper staff, planned redundancies have been announced at its London operations. A possible sale of its 39.1% stake in Australian media group, APN has also receded.
INM’s true health should be seen on April 30, when the group publishes full-year figures for 2008, which are expected to show how badly affected its balance sheet has been by the downturn in theadvertising market.
A possible off-loading of the Independent and its sister title the Independent on Sunday has been the subject of much rumour for the last year, withDenis O’Brien — INM’s second largest shareholder to outgoing chief executive Tony O’Reilly — the most vocal voice calling for such a move.
While the group’s management has consistently resisted such a move, speculation has never ebbed. It has gained more relevance since the announcement of the imminent board shake-up at INM, which will give Mr O’Brien representation.
Now, INM’s 21% stake in Indian publishing group Jagran Prakashan, which publishes India’s bestselling newspaper Dainik Jagran, is also being talked about. Although a spokesperson for INM declined to comment yesterday, reports from Britain have suggested the group’s management has had talks with the Indian group’s owners with a view to selling back the stake.
Russian media tycoon, Alexander Lebedev who recently bought the Evening Standard in London, had been linked to a possible bid for the two London-based Indo titles.
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