Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph owner INM agrees sale to Belgian group Mediahuis

  • Board of Independent News and Media agrees sale to Belgian newspaper group Mediahuis for €145.6m
  • INM's largest shareholders Denis O'Brien and Dermot Desmond have committed to the terms of the deal
Independent House, Talbot Street. Dublin
Independent House, Talbot Street. Dublin

The board of Independent News and Media, which owns the Belfast Telegraph, has agreed a sale to Belgian newspaper group Mediahuis for €145.6m.

The INM board has unanimously recommended the offer, which is conditional on acceptance by shareholders.

Independent News and Media publishes the Irish Independent,, 'Sunday Independent', 'Sunday World', 'The Herald', 'Belfast Telegraph' and several regional newspapers.

Mediahuis publishes major newspaper titles, including De Telegraaf and NRC Handelsblad in the Netherlands and De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium.

The acquisition represents a premium of approximately 44pc of INM's closing price of 7.28cents on 3 April 2019.

INM shareholders will be circulated details of a proposed scheme of arrangement for the sale of the business within 28 days, Independent News & Media chairman Murdoch MacLennan has said.

The chairman said the circulation of documents will be followed by a special shareholder meeting but the date of the emergency general meeting (EGM) where shareholders will vote on the proposal has yet to be determined.

Mr MacLennan outlined the process at the media group's annual general meeting (AGM) in Dublin. The meeting was held just hours after INM's board recommended acceptance of a €146m all cash takeover offer from Belgium headquartered Mediahuis.

Commenting on that bid Murdoch MacLennan said: "We didn't put the company up for sale they have made a cash offer for the business."

He described Mediahuis as a "top of its class" and as committed to maintaining editorial independence.

At the meeting, the chairman told shareholders he could say little in relation to the bid for the business or in relation to the ongoing probe of INM's corporate governance by High Court appointed inspectors.

Mediahuis is a private European media group with a strong portfolio of news media and digital brands.

It was founded in 2013 through the combination of the media assets of two long established Belgian publishers, Mediahuis Partners (formerly Corelio) and Concentra. Since 2013, Mediahuis has grown rapidly through acquisitions to become a leading media player in both Belgium and the Netherlands.

It currently employs more than 3,200 people, delivering a turnover of €819m in 2018.

As a publisher, Mediahuis believes unreservedly in independent and quality journalism, as well as in strong and relevant media that makes a positive contribution to people and society.

Mediahuis' offices are located in Antwerp, Brussels, Hasselt, Amsterdam, and Sittard.

In the Netherlands, the group operates, amongst others the news brands De Telegraaf, NRC Handelsblad, NRC Next, De Limburger and Noordhollands Dagblad, and achieves sales of almost 900,000 newspapers daily.

With news brands such as De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad, Gazet van Antwerpen and Het Belang van Limburg, Mediahuis sells approximately 500,000 newspapers in Belgium daily.

Mediahuis has, in recent years, made significant progress in terms of the digital transformation of its news brands. The Mediahuis Group is committed to accelerating the digitalisation of its news brands without compromising the print editions of its strong portfolio of news titles.

Mediahuis successfully implements pay walls and digital subscription services across its news sites and remains focuses on optimising customer experience through innovative journalism, which results in continued growth in digital subscriptions and enhanced reader relationships.

Mediahuis also operates several significant classifieds platforms in Belgium and the Netherlands, such as Jobat, Jellow, Zimmo, Vroom, Gaspedaal and GroupDeal. The Group is active in the Belgian radio market through the recently launched radio station NRJ and the Nostalgie radio station, which reaches 430,000 listeners in Flanders daily and is the market leader in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Mediahuis also operates a series of regional TV channels.

Gert Ysebaert, CEO of Mediahuis, said: “We believe that there is a clear rationale for the acquisition and that INM will thrive under Mediahuis' ownership.”

“Furthermore, Mediahuis can contribute the relevant experience, skills and resources to invest in INM's brands and significantly enhance its operational and digital capabilities. Underpinned by our unreserved belief in independent and quality journalism, we are optimistic about the combination of Mediahuis and INM and its potential contribution to the Irish media landscape."