Independent News & Media (IMN) has acquired a number of titles published by the regional newspaper group Celtic Media Newspapers for an undisclosed amount.
The deal, which is subject to regulatory and ministerial approval, will see INM become the largest player in the regional newspaper market with 20 titles.
Celtic Media owns seven regional titles, including the Anglo Celt, the Meath Chronicle, the Offaly Independent, the Westmeath Examiner, the Westmeath Independent and Forum, a bi-weekly paper that is distributed in the commuter-belt areas of south Meath.
The deal, however, does not include Celtic Media’s printing operations which remain separate.
For its part, INM owns 13 regional titles including the Kerryman, the Wexford People, the Drogheda Independent, the Wicklow People and the Bray People.
“We are very pleased that Celtic Media Group’s publishing titles are becoming part of INM’s portfolio of regional and digital titles,” says CEO of INM Robert Pitt.
“There are clear synergies arising from this transaction, which fit well with INM’s strategy to remain as a key player in the delivery of printed news content on a national and regional basis. We look forward to welcoming the titles into the INM fold and to working with management and editorial to ensure the continued successful delivery of quality local newspapers,” he says.
“It is a clear objective of INM to support and strengthen its offering of national and regional newspapers and consolidation, as exemplified by this transaction, is the optimum way to protect the group’s titles into the future.”
Up until this deal, INM was the second largest regional newspaper publisher in the country, behind Iconic Newspapers, which is owned by British businessman Malcolm Denmark who bought the Irish titles from Johnston Press in 2015.
Titles in the Iconic Newspapers stable include the likes of the Longford Leader, the Limerick Leader, the Donegal Democrat and the Kilkenny People. In 2015, Iconic reported a turnover of €14.2m and pre-tax profits of €1.17m.
Celtic Media is headed up by Frank Mulrennan, a former business editor with the Irish Independent and managing director of the Drogheda Independent. Following a management buy-out from Dunfermline Press in 2012, Mulrennan, together with group finance director Frank Long and chairman John Wood took control of 75% of the company with the remaining 25% held by 10 senior management at the group.
At the time it is estimated that Mulrennan and the MBO team paid around €5.5m for the titles which were bought from the Scottish company Dunfermline Press. Within the first year of the MBO, turnover had risen to around €10m while profits amounted to around €1.3m.
Documents filed with the Companies Registration Office in recent weeks noted that Celtic Media had total assets of €6.75m while total liabilities amounted to €6.39m, implying shareholders funds stood at €356,563. No other financial information was outlined in documents that were filed.