Saturday 24 August 2019

'End of an era' as INM sale to Mediahuis approved at EGM

Triona Mullane and INM CEO Michael Doorly at the EGM in the Carlton Airport Hotel. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Triona Mullane and INM CEO Michael Doorly at the EGM in the Carlton Airport Hotel. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

INM CEO Michael Doorly, has welcomed shareholder approval for the sale of the company to Belgian-Dutch group Mediahuis.

"It's the start of a new beginning and we're excited by it," he said following an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) for INM's shareholders yesterday in Dublin.

They approved a number of resolutions to implement the €145.6m takeover of INM by Mediahuis, which announced in April that intended to buy the Irish firm.

Mediahuis already owns just under 30pc of the company, having already hoovered up large chunks of shares that were separately owned by billionaires Denis O'Brien and Dermot Desmond. They have both committed to selling their entire stakes to Mediahuis.

INM owns national titles including the Irish Independent, the 'Sunday Independent', a number of regional newspapers, and the 'Belfast Telegraph'.

The takeover of INM has already been approved by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. After yesterday's backing from shareholders, it still requires ministerial and court approval.

"It is the end of an era," said Mr Doorly. "It's a sad day for a lot of shareholders. But it's also an exciting new chapter for the business and for the other stakeholders."

He added that for INM staff it was the "start of a new beginning", but that the day was one of "mixed emotions".

Mr Doorly said it was too early to speculate as to what his role might be within INM once it's acquired.

INM chairman Murdoch MacLennan said the INM board had "every faith" in Mediahuis. "Mediahuis has the experience, the expertise and the skills to drive this business forward much faster - and at a time in our industry when pace is everything," he said.

Privately-owned Mediahuis was represented at yesterday's EGM by law firm Arthur Cox.

The media group was formed in 2013 with the amalgamation of media assets from Belgian publishers Mediahuis Partners and Concentra. In 2018, it generated turnover of €819m. In the Netherlands, Mediahuis owns titles including 'De Telegraaf', and in Belgium, it owns brands including 'De Standaard'.

Yesterday's EGM was sparsely attended by small shareholders. One elderly shareholder who declined to give his name berated the INM board for the price the company was being sold for.

"This is a catastrophic deal," he claimed.

INM has agreed a price of 10.5 cent per share with Mediahuis. That represents a 44pc premium to INM's closing share price on April 3.

The share price has been weighed down by sectoral pressures as well two ongoing probes into the company. High Court inspectors were appointed to the group last September.

The inspectors will report on issues including whether Leslie Buckley, INM's former chairman, disclosed information to third parties in breach of market abuse or other applicable law and whether there have been any breaches of law arising from any of these matters. Mr Buckley has already denied any wrongdoing.

The Data Protection Commissioner is also examining an alleged data privacy breaches at INM.

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