Independent titles up for grabs as IN&M seeks debt relief
LONDON - Sir Tony O'Reilly's Independent News & Media has effectively put its Independent titles up for sale after pledging to dispose of "any loss-making businesses" as part of a drastic financial overhaul.
IN&M is understood to be open to discussions with potential buyers of The Independent and Independent on Sunday, which are believed to be losing at least £10m per year.
There have been reports that Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev, who recently bought a 75% stake in the loss-making Evening Standard for a nominal sum, is interested in the titles, which are now in housed in the same building in Kensington.
IN&M is being corralled into asset disposals by the need to repay a €200m bond due in May, but it yesterday admitted that it had abandoned plans to sell its 39% stake in Australian radio and television business APN because no buyer could be found.
IN&M yesterday imposed a 10% pay cut and ban on bonuses on its directors, and cancelled its dividend.
It said it expects advertising revenues, which account for two-thirds of its income, to drop by 4%-6%.
The company's share price rose by 36% to €0.26 yesterday, having previously fallen 57% in the previous two weeks.
IN&M's second largest shareholder after O'Reilly, telecoms millionaire Denis O'Brien, has long called for the company to sell off the loss making Independent titles.
In November IN&M revealed plans to cut 90 jobs, mostly editorial, across the two titles in a move aimed at saving more than £10m annually.
The cuts came in the same month that it was announced that the Independent and Independent on Sunday were to relocate operations from their Docklands headquarters to share the Kensington offices of Associated Newspapers to share back office functions, delivering costs savings to both groups.
Talks of a sale has led to speculation that the only way the Independent can survive is as an online-only title, which is a fate faced by some American newspapers.
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