The Ireland-based Independent News & Media (INM) is planning to sell its investment in Jagaran Prakashan, publisher of the Dainik Jagran, and other assets to repay its £1.3-billion debt.
INM had acquired a 26-per cent stake valued at Rs150 crore (approximately £22.5 million) in Jagaran Prakashan in July 2005 at Rs467 per share. Following a Rs400-crore IPO issue in January 2006, INM's stake in Jagaran Prakashan came down to 20 per cent. (See: Jagaran Prakashan to issue Rs.400-cr IPO)
INM, which owns over 200 print titles as well as The Independent in Britain, is reported to have discussed with the Gupta family, founders of the Dainik Jagran, its intention to sell back its 20-per cent stake in Jagaran Prakashan.
With gross assets of €4.4 billion and revenue of €1.9 billion, INM, in which Sir Anthony O'Reilly and his family has a 29 per cent stake, has been criticised for not revamping the 98-per cent owned loss-making Sunday Tribune.
INM had been trying to sell its 39.1-per cent stake in APN News and Media in Australia for the past two months but the tight credit markets had made it impossible for the company to find a buyer and it is now planning to sell some its non-core assets to help pay off its £1.3 billion debt, of which, it has to repay a €200 million bond in May.
Sir Anthony and his family are locked in battle with INM's second biggest shareholder with a 21-per cent stake, Denis O'Brien who has questioned Sir Anthony's expenses.
O'Brien's battle heated up when his telecom rival, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the world's second-richest man with a net worth is around $60 billion, took a 1-per cent stake in the Dublin and London listed INM recently.
Analysts feel that Slim will soon increase his stake in INM since he and O'Brien are bitter rivals in the mobile-phone market in the Caribbean.
Last year, INM had combined the offices of The Independent and Independent on Sunday with the Daily Mail to save on costs as advertising revenues have declined sharply due to the current global economic slowdown.
Dainik Jagran has been doing extremely well even in the current economic downturn, with operating revenues was Rs206.49 crore for Q1FY09, an increase of 12.57 per cent as compared to Rs183.42 crores in Q1FY08.
Dainik Jagran was established in 1942 by freedom fighter, Puran Chandra Gupta and its first edition was launched from Jhansi. Its headquarter was subsequently shifted to Kanpur in1947, when it launched its second edition from the city.
Its sister publication, Dainik Bhaskar was recently in the news, when its journalist Jarnail Singh threw a shoe at union home minister P Chidambaram after being dissatisfied with the minister's explanation about the apparent rehabilitation of two politicians accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. (See: After Bush and Jiabao, Chidambaram gets the boot)
The Hindi paper has become India's largest-selling newspaper and is currently the country's largest read and highest circulated daily with a readership of 56.6 million.
In 1953 and 1956 respectively, it launched Rewa and Bhopal editions, . In 1975 came Gorakhpur; in 1979, Varanasi, Allahabad and Lucknow. 1984 saw the Meerut edition being launched followed by Agra in 1986, Bareilly in1989 and Delhi in 1990.
Between 1997 and 2006, Dainik Jagran extended itself by adding eighteen new editions – one each in Dehradun, Jalandhar, Hissar, Patna, Moradabad, Aligarh, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Bhagalpur, Panipat, Haldwani, Ludhiana, Muzaffarpur, Jammu, Dharamshala, Indore and Siliguri. During 2007-08 six new editions were launched – Patiala, Bhatinda, Mathura, Rae Bareilly, Ayodhya and Haridwar.