Saturday 16 November 2019

APN sale follows long and very lucrative wait

Part of APN's improving fortunes is due to the general rebound in media stocks globally. Photo: Getty Images
Part of APN's improving fortunes is due to the general rebound in media stocks globally. Photo: Getty Images

Thomas Molloy

What a difference a few years makes! Back in 2012 when INM was struggling to reduce its €420m debt mountain, some analysts and shareholders argued that INM should sell its long-standing stake in APN along with the rest of the family silver. Today, with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the board was wise to hang on to APN while selling units in South Africa and UK titles.

Shares in APN have quadrupled since the depths of the financial crisis while the Australian dollar has also appreciated; giving INM shareholders two reasons to be cheerful.

Part of APN's improving fortunes is due to the general rebound in media stocks globally as investors such as the legendary Warren Buffet and Amazon's Jeff Besoz bet that the much-heralded demise of newspapers has been exaggerated.

Another reason for APN's change in fortunes is the actions of INM and other activist shareholders to force management Down Under to consolidate APN's position in radio. Bits and pieces of the APN empire were sold or repackaged to ensure the company has a coherent investment story.

Something similar is now happening back at base. INM's complicated balance sheet, which was buffeted by currency fluctuations and the changing fortunes of economies in India, South Africa, Britain and Ireland as well as Australia, is now a simpler affair.

INM has returned to its roots by becoming a relatively simple play on the island of Ireland. Yesterday's news was perhaps the final chapter in this tale of gradual recovery after years of debt-fuelled excess. With no debt, a fast growing economy in its chief market, cheap credit, a commanding market share online and in the newsagent, INM is clearly positioned for growth.

Irish Independent

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