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Independent News & Media axes 600 jobs to lower debt

LONDON – Independent News & Media is to lose as many as 600 staff across its worldwide operations as part of its continued restructuring plan aimed at reducing its levels of debt.

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The company, which publishes The Independent newspaper in the UK as well as titles in Ireland, Australasia and South Africa, is to reduce back office operations and clerical jobs, aimed at saving it €53.5m (£37.6m).

Independent, run by Sir Anthony O'Reilly, employs 11,700 staff worldwide, and the number of redundancies represents about 5% of the workforce.

In a trading statement, the group said changes would result in a £38m charge, which would be more than offset by funds it has raised as part of its strategy to lower its debt.

This is the latest stage of the company's restructuring, aimed at raising €365m.

Last week, Independent sold its regional papers in London to Norfolk-based publisher Archant, which already owns the Ham&High, in a £52m deal.

So far, the restructuring is said to have halved debt levels. The company's year-end debt, excluding €400m belonging to its Australian arm, is expected to fall to €650m.

The company recently took the bold move of publishing a tabloid version of its flagship UK paper The Independent. The decision saw the paper's circulation rise 20%, and was so successful that The Times followed suit.

O'Reilly said advertising levels were improving with circulation "firm" going into 2004.

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