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Independent News & Media reports £31m first half loss

LONDON - Independent News & Media has revealed a €34.7m (£30.6m) loss for the first half of the year and is reportedly on the verge of selling its South African outdoor advertising business.

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The Financial Times reports that INM is selling the outdoor advertising agency INM Outdoor to a London-based African private equity group called Helios Investment Partners in a R1.1bn (£87m) deal.

INM said in its half-yearly results notice today that it expects the disposal of INM Outdoor, along with the sale of the German price comparison site Verivox, to earn over €110m.

The publisher of The Independent and the Belfast Telegraph is selling off non-core assets in a bid to appease creditors, after it revealed in May that it would not be able to meet its obligations relating to €200m worth of matured bonds it had issued.

It has also moved flagship newspaper The Independent into shared offices with Daily Mail publisher DMGT and it expects this will deliver cost savings in the second half.

The loss for the first half of the year has been caused in part by the €71.8m devaluation of some of its intangible assets, namely its mastheads, the company said today.

Without this hit to the profits, INM said it would have reported a pre-tax profit of €29.8m on revenue of €608.8m. Revenue declined by 14.9% compared to last year.

Ad revenues at The Independent and Independent on Sunday were down by 35% compared with the same period last year.

The Belfast Telegraph Group saw also saw a 35% decline in ad revenue, almost half of which is accounted for by a 50% fall in recruitment ads.

Gavin O'Reilly, who took over as group chief executive from his father Sir Anthony earlier this year, said: "The group's current forecast presumes a continuation of poor advertising markets to year-end, with no material pick up from the trend experienced in the first half, save seasonal trends in the run-up to Christmas."

The company said further cost cutting would be made this year "through greater use of synergies, technology, outsourcing and new streamlined work practices".

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