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    Friday
    Mar082013

    Investor sought as newspaper goes into examinership

    An investor will be sought for the Sunday Business Post after the company that publishes the newspaper was placed into interim examinership yesterday.

    Mr Justice Peter Kelly agreed to the appointment of Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton as interim examiner of Post Publications Ltd (PPL), which publishes the paper.

    Garvan Corkery SC, for PPL, told the court the company was “loss-making and insolvent” and had lost the financial support of its Cork-based parent group Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH) following a major restructuring of that company’s assets on Wednesday.

    This involved a new company called Landmark Media Investments Ltd, owned by Tom and Ted Crosbie, acquiring most of the assets of TCH.

    Liabilities 

    This did not include Post Publications Ltd (PPL), which had not guaranteed any of the liabilities of TCH and was not subject to a charge by the Cork media group’s main lender, AIB.

    Landmark is believed to be interested in acquiring PPL from examinership.

    Mr Corkery outlined how PPL has been loss-making since January 2008.

    It recorded a net operating loss of €1.2 million in the year ended January 1st, 2013, and is projected to record a loss of €1.4 million this year.

    Revenues have fallen from €15.6 million in 2007 to €7.4 million in 2012. PPL has no debt but has relied on financial support from TCH for the past four years. This is now no longer available.

    An independent accountant’s report compiled by David Carson of Deloitte has forecast that PPL can return to profit next year and has a “reasonable prospect of survival” subject to certain conditions being met.

    Financial resources 

    The court was told that the company’s own financial resources would be exhausted by week 13 of the examinership when a deficit of €164,795 would be recorded.

    AIB has agreed to provide financial support of €150,000 at this point to enable PPL to see through its examinership.

    Mr Carson’s report estimates that an annual saving in rent of €220,000 can be achieved on its lease of offices in Harcourt Street, Dublin.

    It owes €598,344 in rent arrears to its landlord, Irish Life Assurance plc.

    A reduction of €367,000 in printing costs this year is also forecast.

    A pay cut of 7 per cent along with 20 to 25 redundancies among the 76 staff are also likely, the court was told.

    Agreeing a new printing deal was cited as being key to the future of the paper.

    The court was told that a failure to print the paper on Sunday could be “fatal” for PPL.

    A full examinership hearing will be held on March 15th.

     

    CIARÁN HANCOCK, Irish Times

     

     

     

     

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    Thursday
    Mar072013

    Publisher of 'Irish Examiner' in receivership

    After months of preparation and much speculation in media circles, Cork-based Thomas Crosbie Holdings was placed in receivership yesterday, thereby relinquishing control of the Irish Examiner national daily newspaper and a raft of other titles and radio stations.

    It also ended a long association with the venerable Cork newspaper of two branches of the Crosbie family, including chairman Alan Crosbie.

    In a complex restructuring, his cousin Tom Crosbie, supported by his father Ted, has taken control of most of the media assets of TCH via a new company called Landmark Media Investments Ltd.

    It was not clear last night how much Mr Crosbie has paid or what funding he might be providing for the business going forward.

    Neither Mr Crosbie nor Landmark’s chief executive Tom Murphy, who previously led TCH, were available for comment last night.

    ‘Fresh start’ 

    In a statement, Mr Murphy said this deal would allow the Examiner and associated assets to make a “fresh start”.

    It secures 554 jobs, which will transfer to the new entity on the same terms and conditions.

    However, the Sunday Business Post, which employs 76 people, will today seek to enter examinership. It is understood the Sunday newspaper was excluded from the Landmark deal as AIB, TCH’s main lender, did not have a charge over its assets.

    Landmark and Mr Crosbie are expected to seek to acquire the Sunday title from the examiner.

    The restructuring deal was executed by way of a pre-pack receivership, which had been in preparation for some months and involved Kieran Wallace of KPMG, whose other roles include an appointment as special liquidator of IBRC.

    TCH was loss-making (it dropped €5.8 million in the year to the end of January 2011), had significant debt (€19.1 million) and was locked into a printing contract that it could no longer afford given the collapse in newspaper sales and advertising since 2006.

    AIB, its main lender, supported the financial restructuring. The bank is thought to be owed about €15 million. It was not clear yesterday if AIB was writing off any of this debt. AIB would say only it had “agreed to extend significant additional refinancing facilities” to Landmark.

    Change of ownership 

    There will be losers from this change of ownership. One of those would appear to be Webprint Concepts Ltd, a company based in Mahon Point that had the contract to print TCH’s newspapers.

    It began operations at a new plant in Mahon Point in 2006, signing a lucrative contract with TCH. TCH accounts for about two-thirds of Webprint’s business.

    Latest accounts for Webprint show it made a profit of €1.76 million from turnover of €15.3 million in 2011.

    TCH is believed to have sought to renegotiate the contract with Webprint.

    Ulster Bank could lose out on the double from the restructuring. It is owed about €5 million by TCH, which is secured by a charge on 3.6 acres of land and facilities at Mahon Point.

    It is also a lender to Webprint. At the end of 2011, Webprint’s bank loans stood at €9.64 million. Of this, €3 million was due to be repaid in 2012 and the same amount this year.

    Ulster Bank acknowledged that it has an “exposure” to both TCH and Webprint, but declined to comment on the details.

    In addition, Thomas Crosbie Printers Ltd, a related entity to TCH, is to be liquidated, with the loss of 12 jobs.

    Thomas Crosbie Holdings: The assets 

    ‘Evening Echo’ 

    Introduced by Thomas Crosbie in 1892 and traditionally sold by street vendors known as “Echo Boys”, the Cork evening title’s advertising revenues and circulation have both been under pressure.

    Other local titles 

    The Nationalist (Carlow) and sister titles the Kildare Nationalist and the Laois Nationalist were among the group’s boom-era purchases, as were the Wexford Echo and the Waterford News and Star.

    TCM 

    TCH’s new media division TCM includes RecruitIreland.comMotornet.ieand BreakingNews.ie, which features content from TCH newspaper titles. This division will also transfer to Landmark Media Investments.

    ‘Western People’ 

    This was the first purchase made under the expansion led by former TCH managing director Anthony Dinan. The Mayo title has the second-largest circulation of its local papers, behind the Echo.

    ‘The Irish Examiner’ 

    Founded in 1841 as the Cork Examiner by John Francis Maguire and later taken over by editor Thomas Crosbie, the title was renamed the Examiner in 1996 and the Irish Examiner in 2000.

    Thomas Crosbie Holdings expanded rapidly from the mid-1990s, buying up regional newspaper titles, radio shareholdings and some online media interests. It began cutting costs in 2009, and since then has closed Kerry paper The Kingdom and offloaded the Sligo Weekender, the Newry and Down Democrat and the Irish Post.

    ‘Roscommon Herald’ 

    In 2004, TCH spent €8 million in its acquisition of the Roscommon Herald. The paper’s former chief executive Brian Nerney took legal action against TCH last year, in which it was said in court that TCH was in a “perilous” financial position.

    Radio stations 

    TCH has a 75 per cent stake in WLR FM, through a company called South East Broadcasting. It also has a majority stake in Beat 102-103 FM, a 35 per cent stake in Cork youth station Red FM and a 17.6 per cent stake in MidWest Radio.

     

    CIARÁN HANCOCK, Irish Times

     

     

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    Thursday
    Mar072013

    Court appoints examiner to Sunday Business Post

    The High Court has agreed to the appointment of an interim examiner to Post Publications Ltd, publisher of the Sunday Business Post newspaper.

    Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton was appointed this morning by Justice Peter Kelly following an ex partie application by the company.

    The company is insolvent and has sought the protection of the court from its creditors for the period of the examinership. The court was also told that 20 to 25 voluntary redundancies would be sought later this year. The newspaper employs 76 staff.

    The judge said the appointment of an interim examiner was "desirable" and necessary for the company to be able to continue to publish.

    If wound up, there would be a deficiency to creditors of €6.5 million.

    This move follows the restructuring yesterday of the newspaper's parent company, Cork-based Thomas Crosbie Holdings.

    That deal involved most of the assets of TCH, including The Irish Examiner daily newspaper, being sold to Landmark Media Investments Ltd, owned by Tom and Ted Crosbie.

    The court was told that Post Publications owes money to AIB and the Revenue Commissioners.

    It made a loss of €1.2m in the year to the end of January 2013. It also owes arrears of €598,000 in rent on the lease of its offices on Harcourt Street in Dublin.

    This building is leased from Irish Life Assurance.

    CIARÁN HANCOCK, Irish Times

     

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    Dublin 2

    Monday
    Mar042013

    Hotels: Keeping VAT at 9pc crucial for future of business

    THE majority of hoteliers are still concerned about the future of their businesses despite over half reporting an increase in business in the past year.

    Most hoteliers believe the maintenance of the reduced VAT rate for tourism at 9pc is crucial for the future of their business and 42pc are looking at taking on additional staff because of this.

    An industry survey conducted on behalf of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) found that 53pc of hoteliers are seeing an increase in business compared with this time last year and 90pc have said the reduced tourism VAT has boosted trade.

    However, 71pc say they are still concerned about the future viability of their businesses while 96pc say they are concerned the Government won’t maintain the reduced VAT rate next year.

    Hoteliers in Dublin, Cork and Galway are benefiting from event and business-related tourism, the survey finds with growth also evident in the east, midlands and southeast.

    But occupancy levels continue to lag in the Shannon region and in the southwest of the country.

    Other factors that continue to concern the industry are “excessive” local authority rates and high electricity and gas prices.

    Limited availability of credit continues to dog hoteliers with almost one-third (31pc) admitting difficulties getting standard credit facilities from their banks in the last year.

    IHF chief executive, Tim Fenn, said the Government needed to provide greater medium-term certainty around the VAT rate so that international tour operators could plan trips to Ireland with greater certainty.

    He said: “While the rate reduction has greatly benefited tourism business, it needs to be more than just a short-term measure if we are to achieve sustained growth in visitor numbers. This is particularly important for domestic and international tour operators which are a vital component of the hotels sector.”

     

    MAJELLA O'SULLIVAN, Irish Independent

     

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    Monday
    Mar042013

    Davy lifts forecast for Irish economy

    Davy Stockbrokers has raised its 2013 forecast for the Irish economy following “surprisingly strong” investment spending.

    The company believes Irish gross domestic product (GDP) will grow by 1.3 per cent this year, up from its forecast of 0.9 per cent last October.

    Third-quarter data from last year showed investment spending, led by capital expenditure on machinery, was up 10 per cent on the year, the strongest expansion since the first quarter of 2007.

    The stockbroking firm predicts employment will grow by 0.6 per cent this year, the first year of expansion since 2007, reflecting accelerating private sector employment growth but also a reduction in the pace of public sector job cuts.

    However, chief economist Conall Mac Coille said monthly data on Ireland’s export performance had painted a worrying picture.

    “The most worrying development since our last forecast has been a severe fall in goods exports through Q4 2012. Goods exports declined an enormous 7.5 per cent in the final quarter of the year, driven by a 12.6 per cent fall in pharmaceutical exports.”

    He said a 3.8 per cent contraction in industrial production in the final quarter of 2012 was also led by the fall in pharmaceutical sector output, adding that a more severe slowdown in exports cannot be ruled out.

    “The ultimate impact of the pharmaceutical patent cliff remains uncertain.”

    Pamela Newenham, Irish Times

    Irish Liquidations

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