Ir­ish Times set to ac­quire Ex­am­iner

Deal in­cludes eight other ti­tles and hold­ings in three local ra­dio sta­tions Fi­nan­cial de­tails not dis­closed but AIB takes ‘sig­nif­i­cant debt re­struc­tur­ing’

The Irish Times - - Technology & Innovation - CIARÁN HAN­COCK Busi­ness Ed­i­tor

The Ir­ish Times DAC has agreed a deal to ac­quire all the pub­lish­ing and me­dia in­ter­ests of Land­mark group, the Cork-based com­pany that owns the Ir­ish Ex­am­iner news­pa­per and other me­dia as­sets.

Fi­nan­cial de­tails of the trans­ac­tion have not been dis­closed but AIB has taken what is de­scribed as a “sig­nif­i­cant debt re­struc­tur­ing” as part of the process. The share pur­chase agree­ment was signed on Tues­day.

The ac­qui­si­tion will re­quire sep­a­rate ap­provals from the Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion, the Min­is­ter for Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and the Broad­cast­ing Author­ity of Ire­land. This is ex­pected to take be­tween four and six months to com­plete.

Land­mark’s in­ter­ests in­clude the Ir­ish Ex­am­iner na­tional news­pa­per and the daily Evening Echo. There are also seven re­gional ti­tles – the Water­ford News & Star, the Western Peo­ple, the Na­tion­al­ist, the Kil­dare Na­tion­al­ist, the Laois Na­tion­al­ist, the Roscom­mon Her­ald, and the Naas and New­bridge Na­tion­al­ist.

Its ra­dio as­sets com­prise a 75 per cent stake in both WLR in Water­ford and re­gional sta­tion Beat, and a 17.6 per cent hold­ing in Cork sta­tion Red FM.

Land­mark’s web­site in­ter­ests com­prise Break­ingnews.ie, Ir­ishex­am­iner.com, Re­cruitire­land.com, and 75 per cent of Bench­warm­ers.ie.

The Ir­ish Times DAC pub­lishes The Ir­ish Times and op­er­ates an ex­ten­sive dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing plat­form, with more than eight mil­lion users a month. It also owns lead­ing prop­erty web­site My­home.ie and has a num­ber of pub­lish­ing con­tracts with third par­ties.

The Ir­ish Times news­pa­per had an av­er­age daily cir­cu­la­tion of 62,423 be­tween Jan­uary and June of this year while the dig­i­tal edi­tion had an av­er­age cir­cu­la­tion of 15,234, ac­cord­ing to the Au­dit Bureau of Cir­cu­la­tions. The Ir­ish Ex­am­iner’s av­er­age cir­cu­la­tion was 28,338 while the Evening Echo’s was 9,880.

Liam Ka­vanagh, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Ir­ish Times, said the pro­posed trans­ac­tion was a “once-off op­por­tu­nity in a mar­ket that will def­i­nitely con­sol­i­date”.

Core iden­ity

“We don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the chal­lenges ahead but this com­bi­na­tion could un­der­pin the fu­ture of two long-stand­ing, Ir­ish-owned me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions . . . that are like-minded ed­i­to­ri­ally.”

Mr Ka­vanagh said the in­ten­tion was to keep the “core iden­tity and in­de­pen­dence” of the re­spec­tive news ti­tles. Each would re­tain their edi­to­rial in­tegrity and the over­all in­crease in au­di­ence would al­low the group to build a dig­i­tal plat­form with a strong reach at home and abroad, he said.

The con­sol­i­da­tion also pre­sented the op­por­tu­nity to strengthen and grow ex­ist­ing print ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues, and to se­cure con­tract print rev­enues.

Mr Ka­vanagh said the Ir­ish Times was com­mit­ted to work­ing with the re­spec­tive unions in each com­pany on any re­struc­tur­ing pro­pos­als that would need to be made. The com­bined en­ti­ties would have pub­lish­ing rev­enues of about ¤100 mil­lion and em­ploy about 900 staff.

In a note to staff, Tom Mur­phy, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Land­mark Me­dia, said the sale of its as­sets to the Ir­ish Times was in the “best in­ter­ests of all of our news­pa­per and other me­dia com­pa­nies and as­sets”.

“Con­sol­i­da­tion within the in­dus­try is an in­evitable out­come and both Ir­ish-owned groups will be best po­si­tioned to sur­vive and pros­per as part of a larger, stronger and bet­ter re­sourced en­tity,” he added.

Mr Mur­phy said it would be “busi­ness as usual” for the Cork-based group while it awaited reg­u­la­tory ap­provals.

The Na­tional Union of Jour­nal­ists said it would seek as­sur­ances on the se­cu­rity of em­ploy­ment for staff in­volved in the ac­qui­si­tion. Séa­mus Dooley, NUJ Ir­ish sec­re­tary, said: “We wel­come the as­sur­ance by Liam Ka­vanagh that the edi­to­rial in­tegrity and in­de­pen­dence of the ti­tles will be main­tained.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DARA MAC DÓNAILL

Liam Ka­vanagh, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Ir­ish Times, said the pro­posed trans­ac­tion was a “once-off op­por­tu­nity”.

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