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APN finds favour

AFTER a horrible year of disasters and disastrous advertising revenue, it seems someone finally likes the look of the troubled APN News & Media, and it's a man with very sizeable pockets.

AFTER a horrible year of disasters and disastrous advertising revenue, it seems someone finally likes the look of the troubled APN News & Media, and it's a man with very sizeable pockets. The Irish telco and media billionaire Denis O'Brien, the country's fourth-richest person, has bought 8 million shares in the trans-Tasman publisher and broadcaster, in the same month as it recorded a $98 million loss.

APN's share price has fallen from more than $1.70 in February to 74? last month, suffering poor retail and consumer conditions, and particularly hard hit by the floods in Queensland and earthquakes in Christchurch (its flagship is The New Zealand Herald). But it gained 4 per cent yesterday to close at 86.5?, helped by a rising market and the news of Mr O'Brien's stake.

Mr O'Brien's new 1.4 per cent direct holding cost him $6.6 million and comes on top of his indirect stake through the listed Irish company, Independent News & Media, of which he owns 22 per cent. In turn, it holds 31 per cent of APN.

He is now Independent's largest shareholder, above his rival, another Irish billionaire, Sir Anthony O'Reilly, who bought the company in 1973 and ran it until 2009, and whose son Gavin is chief executive of Independent and chairman of APN. The teams O'Brien and O'Reilly have had stand-offs over control, corporate governance and other matters.


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