O'Reilly May Sell UK National Newspaper as Debt Burden Bites

28 January 2009

DUBLIN: Independent News & Media, the Irish-based media group, will "focus on eliminating any loss-making businesses" as it launches a financial recovery plan, a move that could result in the sale of UK national daily newspaper The Independent.

The company is due to repay some €200 million ($260m; £243m) in loans by May, but attempts to raise funds through the sale of its 39.1% share in Australian operator APN News & Media have failed thus far.

The Independent loses an estimated €10 million annually, and Sir Anthony O'Reilly, INM's chairman/ceo and controlling shareholder, has been repeatedly put under pressure to sell the newspaper by dissident shareholder Dennis O'Brien.

According to observers, other assets that may now be put on the market are Clear Channel Independent, Africa's biggest outdoor advertising provider, online bingo service Cashcase and price comparison website Verivox.

Other options could include selling a debt issue to private investors, a strategy recently employed by the New York Times, which received a loan of $240 million from Mexican telecoms magnate Carlos Slim.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff