DUBLIN: Independent News & Media, publisher of UK daily newspaper The Independent and its sister title the Independent on Sunday, is to sell its 39.1% stake in Australian newspaper and radio group APN News & Media in an effort to reduce debt.

The company is said to have received a number of offers for its stake in the Australian operator, the sale of which could lower its debt level from around €1.4 billion ($1.8bn; £1.1bn) to under €600 million. 

While some analysts argue this will free up funds for investments elsewhere, Denis O'Brien, who holds a 26% stake in INM, has questioned why it is disposing of "one of the group's best performing assets".

INM has recently issued a profit warning, and its earnings could fall by as much as 17% this year as a result of the slowing economy. 

It is aiming to reduce its overall expenditure by some €50m in 2009, and could cut staff levels at its flagship news titles by around 10%.

Other options include sharing some infrastructure and commercial operations with fellow media groups like Trinity Mirror or the Daily Mail & General Trust.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff