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Belgian media group agrees €145.6m takeover of Irish news publisher INM

Independent News and Media, the biggest news publisher in Ireland, has accepted a €145.6m takeover offer from a Belgian media group.

INM, which publishes the Belfast Telegraph, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, The Herald, Sunday World and Sunday Life newspapers, as well as 13 weekly regional titles, said the takeover would allow it to continue delivering high-quality journalism.

Publisher and broadcaster Mediahuis made the cash offer after receiving approval from INM’s largest shareholders, Irish billionaires Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond, who between them own 44.9 per cent of the company, on condition the deal is completed by 30 September.

INM chairman, and former Telegraph chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan said in a statement the 10.5 cents per share deal “represents an excellent outcome for both the company and its shareholders”.

“The offer from Mediahuis represents a compelling opportunity for shareholders to realise cash for their shareholding in INM, at a price which fairly reflects the company’s performance and standalone prospects,” he said.

“INM has a proud and illustrious history stretching back to the start of the 20th century and the INM board believes that this offer from Mediahuis, if approved, will herald an exciting new chapter for our employees, readership and customers.

“Mediahuis already has a strong track record in newspaper and digital media development in Europe, which we feel will provide INM with the best opportunity to achieve its strategic objectives, while continuing to enable it to deliver journalism of the highest quality to the island of Ireland and our readers abroad.”

Mediahuis was founded in 2013 with the merger of Belgian publishers Mediahuis Partners (formerly Corelio) and Concentra. It now publishes newspapers including De Standaard in Belgium and De Telegraaf in the Netherlands, reporting a turnover of €819m last year.

Mediahuis chief executive Gert Ysebaert said: “As a private European media group with a strong portfolio of news media and digital brands, Mediahuis is optimally positioned to facilitate the continued development of INM as a leading Irish media company.

“We believe that there is a clear rationale for the acquisition and that INM will thrive under Mediahuis’ ownership.

“Furthermore, Mediahuis can contribute the relevant experience, skills and resources to invest in INM’s brands and significantly enhance its operational and digital capabilities.

“Underpinned by our unreserved belief in independent and quality journalism, we are optimistic about the combination of Mediahuis and INM and its potential contribution to the Irish media landscape.”

In the Republic of Ireland, INM accounts for more than 50 per cent of the daily market and over 65 per cent of the Sunday market.

INM made €191m in total revenue in 2018, down 2.1 per cent year-on-year, which it blamed on falling advertising revenues, circulation revenues and commercial printing revenues. It reported profit-before-tax (before exceptional items) of €24.1m, down 15.4 per cent.

In September Ireland’s High Court appointed inspectors to probe the company’s affairs after reports of a range of allegedly “unlawful” behaviour at INM, which has its headquarters at Independent House in Dublin.

Picture: Google Maps

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