O'Brien seals €200m deal for Emap's three Irish radio outlets


Denis O'Brien's Communicorp Group has completed the acquisition of Emap's radio interests in Ireland. Ciarán Hancock, Business Affairs Correspondent, reports.

Mr O'Brien yesterday agreed to pay €200 million for Emap's three Irish stations last July. It is understood that the businessman made an up-front payment of €20 million at that time.

Mr O'Brien also increased his shareholding in Independent News & Media yesterday to 17.04 per cent.

He is now the newspaper group's second-biggest shareholder behind Sir Anthony O'Reilly who yesterday bought a million shares at €2.36 apiece to raise his stake in the company to 26.73 per cent.

Communicorp is paying €148 million to buy national station Today FM and Highland Radio in Donegal, having recently sold on Dublin's FM104 to UTV for €52 million, subject to regulatory approval. Mr O'Brien is now expected to offload Highland Radio some time this year.

The deal has received approval from the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, the Competition Authority and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

"This purchase represents a major expansion of Communicorp's portfolio of radio interests," Mr O'Brien said. "In particular, Today FM is a leading Irish brand which has grown its market share strongly and offers a distinct alternative to RTÉ radio in the national radio sector."

Mr O'Brien already owns national stations Newstalk, Dublin's 98FM and Spin and is a backer of East Coast Radio in Wicklow and the Spin regional youth licence in the south west.

He said the Irish media industry was "vibrant and growing in a way that reflects the very significant social and economic developments" in the country over the past two decades.

"The Irish economy is, I believe, fundamentally strong and continued investment in infrastructure, especially education and health, will yield further social and economic advancement in the years and decades ahead," Mr O'Brien added.

However, he sounded a warning about the negative effect of some of the gloomy economic forecasts that have emerged recently.

"It is imperative that we do not talk ourselves into recession," he said. "And it is most important that the hopes and ambitions of the next generation are not discouraged or deflated by negativity."