INM chairman admits they don't know how much probes will cost
The chairman of Independent News & Media (INM), which publishes the Belfast Telegraph, has admitted the group doesn't know what the financial cost will be of ongoing investigations in the Republic.
Speaking to reporters after chairing his first annual general meeting (AGM) of INM shareholders, Murdoch MacLennan said the company had not made a specific provision in relation to the probes, which already include costly court actions.
"We just don't know how long it's going to last or what it's going to cost. We're keeping a close watch on it," he said.
Earlier, he told shareholders at the AGM that costs associated with the ongoing investigations by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and the Data Protection Commissioner, and of a restructuring of the business, will be treated as exceptional charges in the next group income statement.
INM, which also publishes the Sunday Life, www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk and www.nijobfinder.co.uk, is seeking to prevent the appointment by the High Court in Dublin of inspectors.
The ODCE applied for inspectors to be appointed, citing concerns on a range of corporate governance issues, including a suspected major data breach.
Murdoch MacLennan said he was "horrified" at the prospect that third parties may have had access to data held by INM for an "improper purpose" as a result of the breach.
Earlier, he told shareholders that INM's trading performance in the year to date was "in line with market expectations" in a market update ahead of the AGM.
Mr MacLennan said INM had cooperated fully with ODCE requests to date - including responding to 14 requests to hand over books and records, however the group was opposed to the appointment of inspectors to look into the affairs of the company.
"The board is, however, gravely concerned that the appointment of an inspector to INM would have a significantly damaging impact on the company and all its stakeholders, including its shareholders, employees, members of its pensions schemes, readers and customers," he said.
Mr MacLennan added: "Let me tell you this, if there was any wrongdoing in the past it was done without the knowledge or approval of the board, and the board is prepared to take such steps as are necessary to protect INM's interests and to obtain redress from third parties if advised that it is appropriate to do so."