Sparring partners boost APN
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 telecoms 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 over $1.70 in February to 74? last month, suffering poor retail and consumer conditions, like other media stocks, and was particularly hard-hit by the floods in Queensland and earthquakes in Christchurch (its flagship publication is The New Zealand Herald).But it gained 4 per cent yesterday to close at 86.5?, helped by a rising market and the announcement of Mr O'Brien's stake.His 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 owns 31 per cent of APN.He is now Independent's largest shareholder, above rival 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 O'Brien and O'Reilly teams have had repeated stand-offs over control of the company, corporate governance and coverage of O'Brien in the company's newspapers.The antipathy apparently stems from the time Mr O'Brien won Ireland's second mobile phone licence in 1995. Mr O'Reilly was another bidder, and claims his rival was helped by a government minister were the subject of a long-running inquiry.