Independent News & Media says €40m to be made in rights issue
Shareholders at agm told of “substantial progress” made by group
Vincent Crowley, Group Chief Executive Officer INM, at the Independent News & Media PLC Annual Report in Dublin. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill.
Independent News & Media shareholders can expect to see details of the company’s plan to raise €40 million in a rights issue by mid-October, chief executive Vincent Crowley said yesterday. After the media group’s agm in Dublin, Mr Crowley and Independent chairman Leslie Buckley confirmed that Davy had been appointed as underwriter for the rights issue, with the exact timing of the fundraising remaining “fluid”.
Mr Buckley said the process was still at a “very early” stage but that the board was “very optimistic” that the Pensions Board would soon approve its plans to reform its pension scheme, thus clearing the way for the rights issue. The company will issue an interim management statement at that stage.
Shareholders had earlier been updated on Independent’s financial restructuring, which Mr Buckley said would see its debt burden fall from €422 million at the start of the year to €118 million at the end, with debt maturities also extended.
The reduction will be due in part to a €138 million bank writedown, but also to its plan to reduce employee pension benefits by 39 per cent and to the sale of its South African assets for about €170 million.
The rights issue, which coincides with ongoing operational cost savings of €26 million, marks the final step in what Mr Buckley described as “substantial progress” being made by Independent in dealing with its financial difficulties.
Mr Crowley told the generally content shareholders that the group would emerge with a “comfortable” balance sheet at the end of the process.
When pressed on when the group may restart dividend payments, Mr Buckley said he hoped to be able to shed “better light” on this next year.
He emphasised the company’s hopes for its digital offering, which is due to sit behind a so-called “leaky paywall” from the end of this year. Mr Crowley said research was being conducted on how best to apply the paywall, which will not come into force before December.
Ten Independent directors were elected or re-elected at the meeting, with non-executive Paul Connolly seeing most opposition as votes in respect of 51 million shares were cast against him and 282 million shares in favour of his re-election.
Mr Connolly gained some prominence last year when he took a case against a €1.9 million compensation package being awarded to former INM chief executive, Gavin O’Reilly. That matter was eventually settled.