Independent News moves resolution for APN boardroom cleanout

Brett Chenoweth

Independent News & Media, the Irish media group controlled by billionaire Denis O'Brien, wants a complete clean-out of APN News & Media's boardroom after gunning for chief executive Brett Chenoweth's head late last week.

The Irish group has made an official request for a general meeting that would put APN directors Chenoweth, Melinda Conrad, John Harvey, Kevin Luscombe, John Maasland and chairman Peter Hunt on the block.

The survivors would include INM's appointees Paul Connolly, Vincent Crowley, former INM director Peter Cosgrove and deputy chairman Ted Harris.

The boardroom stoush emerged last week, and has been linked to Mr Chenoweth's plans for a pro-rata capital raising that has the blessing of adviser Macquarie Capital. APN says another announcement regarding the capital raising and other matters will come later today and the stock remains halted in the meantime.

INM holds about 29 percent of APN, and Mr O'Brien has a further 1.8 percent on his personal account, which could force APN's hand with the support of fund manager Allan Gray's 20 percent stake in the company.

Allan Gray managing director Simon Marais told the Australian Financial Review last week he opposed the rights issue and has previously said he favours a tie-up with Fairfax Media Group, of which he is also a substantial shareholder.

Angus Gluskie, head of Sydney-based White Funds Management, does not specifically follow APN but says a cheap offer to raise capital could attract interest from bargain hunters as the downturn in media starts to abate.

"You can see some potential appetite because the cycle is turning more favourably," he says.

INM agreed to sell its South African unit for two billion rand to a consortium led by Sekunjalo Holdings on Sunday, according to a Reuters report. That leaves APN as its only operation outside Ireland.

APN is grappling with falling advertising revenue and plans to sell non-core media assets in New Zealand after a strategic review of operations in this country. It took an $A485 million charge against its New Zealand publishing assets unit as part of the ongoing review.

The stock, which was halted last week at 30 Australian cents, is rated an average 'underperform' based on 11 analyst recommendations compiled by Reuters with a median target price at 31.5 Australian cents. That gives it a market capitalisation of $A199.5 million, compared to the $A900.6 million enterprise valuation.

INM has gone through its own boardroom battle in recent years after Mr O'Brien successfully ousted the O'Reilly family after a ceasefire between the billionaires in 2009.

(BusinessDesk)

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2 Comments & Questions

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This is an unfortunate example of a clash of two Irish major shareholders' egos causing dysfunction in a company, at the expense of other (mainly minority) shareholders. Sell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Sell because the APN board and management have few clues about how to run a profitable media company these days.

My analysis shows APN leaves several tens of millions of net profit on the table every year. Undiversified revenues in high risk streams, poor brand management, and costs in some areas way out of line.

APN board and management are inward-looking, apparently not knowing how poorly they perform on most benchmarks compared to well-run media companies.

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