SHAREHOLDERS in Independent News & Media voted overwhelmingly in favour of the publisher's restructuring plan at a special meeting yesterday.
The votes pave the way for INM chief executive Vincent Crowley's plans to slash debt by the end of the year for the publisher of this newspaper and other Irish titles such as the 'The Herald' and 'Belfast Telegraph'.
INM soared on the Dublin stock exchange yesterday, closing up 23pc at 4.3 cents as non-executive director Jerome Kennedy bought 100,000 shares. That was the biggest one-day gain since early January.
At the meeting shareholders backed four motions yesterday including the sale of INM's newspapers in South Africa which is the first stage in the seven-month plan to cut the company's debts by €350m to €118m. Other motions paved the way for a new rights issue.
All motions were supported by shareholders owning at least 98pc of the shares, which implies that all the company's major shareholders back the plans despite well-publicised disagreements in the past.
The brief meeting was a calm affair compared to some previous agms and the few shareholders who spoke limited themselves to congratulating chairman Leslie Buckley and the board for reaching a deal with the publisher's eight banks.
"I don't know who was the genius who did it, but I don't think I've seen a bigger write-off," shareholder and cinema entrepreneur Tom Anderson told the meeting.
Shareholder John Lynch also praised the deal and asked when the publisher would resume paying a dividend, a question that did not receive a definitive answer despite Mr Lynch's request for "some reasonable prognostication".
Mr Buckley, chairing his first shareholder meeting, reiterated that INM plans to retain its stake in Australia-based media company APN and does not believe the stake is valued properly at the moment.
The company's cost-cutting plan, which involves voluntary redundancies and new printing times for newspapers such as 'The Herald' and 'Belfast Telegraph', will cost €19m but generate savings of €26m from 2014, Mr Buckley added.
INM unveiled the radical deal in late April to slash core debt to €118m.
The deal also involves restructuring of the company's pension scheme, which had a deficit of €162m at the end of 2012, and an attempt to raise an additional €40m in new equity.