Independent News & Media sells stake in mobile phone business

By Karen Chan

New Zealand investors in Independent News & Media were among the first in the world to hear about its latest deal yesterday.

Overnight, the international media company sold a 37.6 per cent stake in iTouch PLC, a mobile phone ring-tone seller, to Tokyo mobile content provider For-side.com for about $200 million.

INM chief operating officer Gavin O'Reilly told New Zealand investors the stake was sold for a return of more than 300 per cent on the company's investment in less than four years.

"This hasn't been announced yet in Dublin or London," he said.

He expected the news to be "extremely well received" by the market.

Independent News & Media has a 39.7 per cent stake in Australasian media concern APN News & Media, publisher of the Herald, and has raised funds from more than 4800 New Zealand investors through the issue of preference shares by funding vehicle News & Media NZ. The preference shares will convert to either $4 cash or one INM share.

O'Reilly told investors a strong increase in INM's share price in the past year meant that an INM share was worth more than $4.25 to New Zealand investors, ahead of the cash conversion. 

Advertising accounts for about 60 per cent of INM's revenue. After the meeting, O'Reilly said the company expected growth in advertising spending "in the high single digits" across its markets, potentially higher than the 6 to 7 per cent growth projected by APN, at its own annual meeting on Wednesday.

With Australia awaiting the expected relaxation of strict cross-media ownership rules, O'Reilly said any activity that INM undertook in Australia would be done through APN and he reiterated that APN was not actively planning deals.  

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