Denis O'Brien: INM bankruptcy protection move possible

Independent News and Media could go into the Irish equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Denis O’Brien said at the weekend.

In an interview with The Irish Sunday Times O’Brien, who with a 26 per cent stake in INM is the second biggest shareholder, said ‘examinership”, in which allows court protection from creditors for a specified period, was an option for the media group.

He said: ‘We’ll have to consider it. I am being very clear.”

O’Brien’s confirmation of the extent of the financial woe at INM came after it extended for a third time in as many months the standstill agreement entered into with its banks over a due bond repayment of more than €200m (£170m).

The Dublin-based publishing group, which owns the Independent and Independent on Sunday, has pushed the deadline back to 27 August to help it gets its finances in order. The agreement was set to expire on 24 July.

It said the latest roll-over would facilitate “constructive discussions” with holders of the bond which was originally due to be repaid in May.

The group said it had sufficient funding in place to meet all working capital requirements during the standstill period.

INM has been selling off businesses in an attempt to plug its leaky finances.

The sale earlier this month of its 18 per cent holding in Cashcade, owner of bingo websites, including Foxy Bingo, to gambling business Partygaming and the part-sale of its interest in Indian newspaper group, Jagran Prakashan, have brought it a €37m (£32m), it said.

However, it moved to dismiss reports that other key parts of the business were up for sale, saying despite reports to the contrary none of its publishing assets in Ireland, the United Kingdom, South Africa and/or Australasia were being sold off.

O’Brien also told the Irish Sunday Times he would block any planned sale of INM Outdoor, the company’s advertising division in South Africa, despite speculation that the company was looking to off-load the asset.

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