INM shareholders reject O’Brien bid

The battle for control of Independent News & Media intensified on Tuesday with shareholders rejecting a bid by Denis O’Brien, a dissident shareholder, to secure key board changes.

The telecoms entrepreneur, who owns 25 per cent of the Dublin-based newspaper publisher, had been seeking the removal of Brian Hillery as chairman and the appointment of a new senior independent director.

But each of the two resolutions was defeated by a 65 per cent majority at an extraordinary shareholders meeting on Tuesday.

The vote is another blow to Mr O’Brien’s bid to challenge the dominant position of Sir Anthony O’Reilly, the company’s largest shareholder with 28 per cent. Mr O’Brien and Sir Anthony have a bitter rivalry dating from Sir Anthony’s successful bid to take Eircom, the former state owned telephone monopoly, private in 2002.

Mr Hillery said he was “pleased” at the level of IN&M shareholders’ support. He said the company was at “a critical juncture as we seek to restore financial stability on an agreed and consensual basis, in the best interest of all stakeholders”.

The company on Tuesday announced plans for another shareholder meeting on November 26 to approve a proposed restructuring, forced on the company after it was unable to repay a €200m ($294m) bond due in May.

The restructuring, agreed with bondholders after months of negotiations, involves a debt for equity swap with bondholders exchanging €123m of bonds for 46 per cent of the company. Existing shareholders will be invited to participate in a rights issue at 5 cents to raise up to €94m.

The company is also raising €150m through asset sales and has identified the disposal of its African advertising business INM Outdoor. However, this has to be approved by shareholders. Mr O’Brien has publicly said he is opposed to the disposal.

Since the summer, IN&M has disposed of its stake in Cashcade, the UK online bingo operator, for €15.2m. It also sold 7.3 per cent of Jagran Prakashan, the Indian newspaper publisher, for €21.7m.

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