Independent News & Media buys into India's top seller

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The Independent Online

Independent News & Media (INM), the owner of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, confirmed it has bought a stake in an Indian newspaper group, as it revealed advertising and circulation revenues were continuing to grow across all its regions.

Independent News & Media (INM), the owner of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, confirmed it has bought a stake in an Indian newspaper group, as it revealed advertising and circulation revenues were continuing to grow across all its regions.

Sir Anthony O'Reilly, the chief executive, is paying €25.5m (£17.8m) for a 26 per cent stake in Jagran Prakashan, which publishes the Hindi-language Dainik Jagran, India's biggest selling daily newspaper with nearly 2 million copies sold a day. Its readership is about 16.4 million, making it one of the world's most widely read newspapers.

INM will fund the acquisition from its existing cash reserves and expects Jagran to be immediately earnings enhancing for the group. The Gupta family, which founded the business, will keep the remaining 74 per cent.

INM announced, ahead of full-year results, strong revenue growth across all its major markets and said investors could look forward to a "meaningful increase" in earnings in 2005.

Thanks to buoyant economies in South Africa, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, group advertising revenues are up more than 10 per cent year on year, with key advertising categories particularly strong in the final three months of 2004.

Group circulation revenues are expected to be up 10 per cent year on year following the success of the compact editions in the UK and Ireland. Sales of The Independent were up 9.1 per cent in November compared with the same month in 2003, and market share has increased to 11.7 per cent. The group recently said The Independent titles would break even by mid-2006.

Sir Anthony said the group's cost savings were still on track after successfully completing a €19m restructuring plan this year. "A long overdue - yet broad-based and well-diversified - positive revenue trend, coupled with extremely good cost management, will generate a strong result for the year 2004," he said.

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