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.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Test Lead (C#, Java, HTML, SQL) Kingston Finance

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Access/Teradata Developer, Banking, Bristol £400pd

£375 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Access / Teradata Developer - Banking - Bristol -...

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home