The restructuring of the Australasian operations of Independent News & Media was approved by shareholders yesterday, paving the way for further acquisitions in the region.
The deal sees the Australian APN News & Media Group, which is 40 per cent owned by Independent News & Media, buy out Independent's wholly-owned New Zealand business, Wilson & Horton.
Shareholders in APN approved the deal at an extraordinary general meeting in Brisbane yesterday, with 99.4 per cent voting in favour. Independent News & Media, publisher of The Independent and Independent on Sunday, did not vote on the proposal as it is a related party transaction.
Vincent Crowley, the chief executive of APN, said: "The result is a strong vote of confidence in our strategy to acquire Wilson & Horton, which adds high-quality assets to APN, is attractively priced for shareholders and will significantly boost earnings per share."
APN will acquire Wilson & Horton for A$809m (£295m) in cash. Independent News & Media will use the proceeds to reduce group debt by about 220m euros (£137m) to 1.2bn euros. Wilson & Horton owns the New Zealand Herald and a group of regional newspapers.
The deal will be completed by the end of this month, with Independent News & Media's share of APN rising from 40 per cent to 45 per cent.
Independent has said that as well as strengthening its balance sheet, the deal would enable it to look at other opportunities in the region. Analysts have said that these could include an approach for John Fairfax Holdings, the Sydney-based media group.