O’Brien ups INM stake to 27% but still short of mandatory takeover level

Denis O’Brien has acquired another 5% of Independent News & Media (INM) — increasing his shareholding in the company to around 27%.

Mr O’Brien was already INM’s largest individual shareholder but this strengthens his position; although the stake isn’t enough to trigger a mandatory takeover.

Mr O’Brien made the purchase of nearly 33 million INM shares at noon yesterday at a price of 34.5c per share — 24% higher than the 27.8c the stock was selling for at the time. The company’s share price jumped by more than 15% to 32c following news of the transaction.

INM’s share price has consistently been on the rise since its change in leadership — which saw former chief operating officer Vincent Crowley take over the CEO role — late last month.

The move comes at an interesting point — a fortnight after the departure of Gavin O’Reilly as INM’s chief executive — and just a month before the group’s annual general meeting.

If Mr O’Brien increases his stake in INM above 30% this could trigger an automatic bid for the entire company, under takeover rules.

Neutral opinion yesterday suggested the move could be seen two ways: as Mr O’Brien increasing his control of INM ahead of the Government looking to tighten media ownership laws later this year; but, more immediately, to give himself more voting power at the upcoming AGM, where the position of one of his two remaining representatives on the INM board, Paul Connolly, could be at risk.

Mr Connolly was behind the recent High Court action challenging a €1.87m pay-off to Mr O’Reilly.

At last year’s INM AGM, one of Mr O’Brien’s then three board representatives, Leslie Buckley, was voted off the board.


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