Irish newspaper group reveals pounds 250m war-chest

Independent Newspapers, the Dublin-based international publisher, has earmarked up to pounds 250m for acquisitions in the print, radio and television markets world-wide, the company revealed yesterday, following the launch of a one-for-three rights issue aimed at raising IRpounds 106m (pounds 109m).

Tony O'Reilly, the company chairman and its largest shareholder, is putting in IRpounds 22m of his own money to keep his holding at roughly 26 per cent. "Yes, it's quite a big underwriting," Dr O'Reilly said yesterday, following the company's annual general meeting in Dublin. But he said it was justified by the growth prospects.

"Effectively we are de-gearing the company," he said. Asked what the company might buy, he said: "It could be the purchase of nationals or regionals in Britain, it could be expansion in South Africa or consolidation in New Zealand or further investment in Australia."

The timing of the rights issue, which coincided with last night's announcement by Pearson that it was selling its regional newspaper group, Westminister Press, fuelled speculation that Independent Newspapers could be a buyer.

Capitalised at IRpounds 600m, the Dublin-based company has seen profits increase fivefold in five years to IR50m, on the strength of an aggressive acquisition strategy.

The rights issue, which will reduce gearing to just 14 per cent from 56 per cent currently, will give the company "much greater flexibility to move quickly when we need to," finance director James Parkinson said.

"We are shown a lot of interesting opportunities, and need to be flexible," he said. "This was a good time to go to the market."

The company owns or co-owns newspapers in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, where it holds 46 per cent of the Independent. It has newspapers worth about pounds 1.2bn under administration, and publishes 12 million newspapers a week world-wide. The group has been linked to a number of possible acquisition targets, most recently the ailing Express titles.

Mr Parkinson declined to comment on specific targets, but said the company's interest in the UK was limited to the print sector. Overseas, both radio and television were viewed as attractive, he said, confirming that the company would consider bidding for radio licences in South Africa. Earlier this year, a consortium in which Independent Newspapers was a member bought Radio New Zealand, the privatised radio company.

Mr Parkinson said that both television and radio companies in the UK were "on the expensive side," but that there wereopportunities in overseas markets.

Australia was viewed as the most likely target for future growth. Dr O'Reilly's son, Cameron, is chief executive of Australian Provincial Newspapers, the Independent affiliate company, and has been based in Sydney since 1988.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot