IN&M considers sale of India's largest newspaper
LONDON - Independent News & Media is looking at selling its minority stake in the Hindi-language Indian newspaper Dainik Jagran to relieve its £1.3bn debt burden, according to reports.
The group is understood to have held discussions with the founding family behind Dainik Jagran, which has a readership of 56.6m, about selling back its stake in the paper.
IN&M acquired a 26% stake in Jagran Prakashan, parent company of Dainik Jagran, for €25.5m (£22.6m) in 2004.
In addition IN&M has received "one or two informal approaches" for The Independent, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph today.
Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev flagged up an interest last year, before he bought a 75% stake in London's Evening Standard from the Daily Mail and General Trust, and in January it emerged IN&M was open to offers.
Corporate finance group Lazard has been dealing with the sale enquiries on behalf of IN&M but the group has not been given a formal mandate to sell the title, according to the Telegraph.
Denis O'Brien, IN&M's second largest shareholder with 26%, has been calling for the sale of The Independent and Independent on Sunday, which are believed to be losing at least £10m per year.
His calls were previously blocked by IN&M's chief executive Sir Anthony O'Reilly, the group's largest shareholder with around 28.5% of the group.
But O'Reilly is retiring on May 7, his 73rd birthday, leaving his son Gavin O'Reilly in charge.
IN&M's share price has fallen by more than 90% over the past year and is currently trading at €0.20.
The group, which is set to release its preliminary 2008 results on April 24, recently conceded that a €200m bond due for repayment on May 18 will need rolling over after it scrapped a new bond issue last month.
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