Exodus from APN board

Ireland's Independent News & Media has been successful in engineering a major exodus from the APN News & Media board, and in putting a stop to a planned capital raising.

The chairman of APN, Peter Hunt, along with chief executive and managing director Brett Chenoweth and three independent directors Melinda Conrad, John Harvey and John Maasland will resign, effective from tomorrow.

Independent director Kevin Luscombe will retire in April, as previously planned, APN said.

The board of directors met on Sunday to determine whether APN would undertake a renounceable pro-rata capital raising.

Preparation for the capital raising had been supported by all directors and had been under discussion for several months, although the timing and final decision to proceed had not been agreed.

"While the board agreed the company needed to reduce its debt, it was unable to agree on the methodology," the company said in a statement.

The departing directors believed that a capital raising should be undertaken when the company announces its annual results on Thursday.

"Independent News & Media plc (INM) and its major shareholder together with Allan Gray representing approximately 51 per cent of APN's shares have unequivocally indicated they are opposed to a capital raising at the present time," it said.

Last Friday, the board received a requisition from INM for an extraordinary general meeting to remove six directors, including the chairman and chief executive, and to establish a new board.

This would consist initially of two INM representatives, Vincent Crowley and Paul Connolly, as well as Peter Cosgrove and Deputy Chairman Ted Harris.

"The departing directors have a different view on gearing levels to the major shareholders and in light of their opposing position it is not tenable for them to continue," the statement said.

The company is in the process of appointing a search firm to assist in the selection of a chief executive and additional board members.

Debt-laden Independent News & Media, which owns 28.95 per cent of APN.

APN's market capitalisation, as of last week, was A$198.5m, compared with the company's debt, which stands at about A$450 million.

In an earnings update released last December, APN News said its second half net profit would be affected by a decline in publishing revenue in Australia.

Before last week's trading halt, which ends tomorrow (Tuesday), APN News shares were at A30c, having traded in a wide A24.5c to A96c range over the last 52 weeks.


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