Friday 22 September 2017

Debt-free INM appoints advisers for new acquisitions

From left, Independent News & Media Chief Financial Officer Ryan Preston, Group Chief Executive Officer Robert Pitt, Group Business Editor Dearbhail McDonald and Group Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae at a staff briefing on Friday. Photo: David Conachy
From left, Independent News & Media Chief Financial Officer Ryan Preston, Group Chief Executive Officer Robert Pitt, Group Business Editor Dearbhail McDonald and Group Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae at a staff briefing on Friday. Photo: David Conachy

Dearbhail McDonald Group Business Editor

Independent News & Media (INM), which saw pre-tax profits jump nearly 30pc last year, has appointed expert advisers to scout potential acquisitions in the UK and Ireland.

INM, which is debt-free following the sale of APN, says it has up to €120m to acquire both digital and print businesses and will shortly appoint a dedicated head of mergers and acquisitions.

The company, which publishes the Sunday Independent, Irish Independent, the Herald, Sunday World and independent.ie, plans to grow the media group on foot of strong annual results, which saw it end the year with an increased cash balance of just under €60m.

INM posted pre-tax profits of €37.4m in the year ended December 2015, up 29.4pc and enhanced by a 41.7pc boost in digital advertising revenues to €12.5m.

Following publication of the company's financial results last Friday, chief executive Robert Pitt spoke to staff about the 'Innovation Hub' which has been established in the editorial department. The Hub, with the help of external consultants, is looking at building new products, acquisitions and joint ventures. He said there were already early developments here.

Mr Pitt said digital advertising had become the key growth area for the business, offsetting declines in the print market. He insisted that the firm's future investment and acquisition strategy would help extend the life of the print market amid ongoing consolidation in the newspaper industry.

"Print is too important," said Mr Pitt. "It's too important to society, it's too important to our retail partners, it's too important to us not to do anything about it."

INM accounts for over 50pc of the quality daily market and over 65pc of the quality Sunday market. Its digital audience grew to an average of 8.9 million, an increase of almost 10pc on 2014.

In a note to investors, Darren McKinley, equity analyst at Merrion Stockbrokers, said INM's results were considerably ahead of consensus expectations.

"We continue to view INM as an attractive investment proposition, given the improvement in balance sheet, the higher operating margin and their top-line (revenue) returning to growth, led by digital advertising," he said.

Sunday Indo Business

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