Independent News sells Portuguese stake for €24m

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The Independent Online

Independent News & Media, which owns The Independent, has sold its 19.1 per cent stake in Lusomundo Media, a Portuguese newspaper publishing company, for €24m (£17m), giving a small profit over book value. The buyer is Portugal's main newspaper publisher Cofina, whose titles including the leading morning paper Jornal de Negocios.

The deal allows Independent News to quit a peripheral operation to concentrate on Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, where it has important market positions.

Independent News shares gained 1p to 126p yesterday and are up from 70p in March.

The chief financial officer, Donal Buggy, said that Cofina had made an approach with "a good price for this non-core asset". He said the competitive Portuguese media market was in the middle of a major realignment.

The sale is part of the recapitalisation that Independent News announced with 2002 full-year results in March and it means the programme is almost completed. The only outstanding issue is the agreed sale of its UK regional titles to Newsquest for £60m, which was expected to be cleared by the Department of Trade and Industry in June. A ruling is now expected this month.

The €315m recapitalisation programme included a successful €103m rights issue that was taken up 97 per cent, the signing of a five-year banking facility with a club of banks, and the issuing of €100m of cumulative exchangeable preference shares in New Zealand.

Independent's Australian offshoot has also raised €59.8m through a share placing.

Independent News & Media is among bidders for the portfolio of Irish newspapers put up for sale by Trinity Mirror.

It has also stepped up investment in the flagship UK titles, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, including the launch of a tabloid-sized edition of The Independent within the M25.

The group reported strong progress in its continuing operations in the first half of this year.

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