Rivals 'Herald AM' and 'Metro' in merger talks


INDEPENDENT NEWS Media (INM) is in advanced talks with The Irish Times Ltd and Associated Newspapers to merge its Herald AMfreesheet with rival publication Metro Ireland.

It is understood that the three media groups are close to agreeing a groundbreaking deal that would see the two loss-making Dublin freesheets merged into one title, called Metro Herald.

Such a deal would be subject to approval from the Competition Authority.

Each group would have a one-third share in the new business.

Metrohas three large backers: The Irish Times and Associated Newspapers (publisher of the Daily Mail), who each own 45 per cent, and Metro International of Sweden, which has a 10 per cent interest in the business. It is understood that Metro International, which owns the rights to the Metrobrand here, will exit the business.

When contacted, Paul Crosbie, managing director of Ballsbridge-based Metro Ireland, said: “I have no comment to make on that.”

Rumours of a restructuring of the freesheet market in Dublin have circulated for some time.

Both titles were launched in late 2005 but neither has made a profit due to high distribution costs and a lack of advertising.

Accounts for Fortunegreen Ltd, which controls the Metrotitle, show it had accumulated losses of just more than €11 million at the end of 2007. It is thought to have added to those losses in 2008.

IN&M does not break out financial figures for Herald AMbut its losses are thought to be similar to those of Metro. Between them, the two freesheets distribute about 145,000 newspapers in the greater Dublin area each day.

It is understood that the three media groups believe a merged title, which would have the morning freesheet market in the capital to itself, could break even in its first year.

A merged title would significantly reduce distribution costs.Both newspapers have about 100 people handing out copies on the street. It would also reduce printing, sales and marketing costs and should prove more attractive to advertisers.

The Irish Times is expected to print the new title at its facility in Citywest.

This would be the first time that IN&M and The Irish Times would have participated jointly in a newspaper venture here.