Eight expressions of interest in Sunday Business Post

Friday 15 March 2013 18.42
Advertising revenue at the Sunday Business Post has fallen by 68% in five years
Advertising revenue at the Sunday Business Post has fallen by 68% in five years

Eight expressions of interest in investing in the Sunday Business Post have been filed so far, the High Court has heard.

The appointment of an examiner to the newspaper owners and publishers, Post Publications Ltd, was confirmed at a hearing today.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly confirmed the appointment of Mr Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton as examiner and said the protection of the court continues to be afforded to the company.

The judge said the newspaper is unfortunately insolvent and in the unhappy position shared by several other companies which have been assailed by the economic storms which have buffeted the country for many years.

He said the newspaper had seen dramatic downturn in its fortunes and the primary cause was the drop in advertising revenue, which fell by 68% in a five year period, and a drop in circulation revenue.

Referring to the expressions of interest in investing in the company, Mr Justice Kelly said the fact that there is interest suggests the company has a reasonable prospect of survival.

On the basis of the evidence before him the Judge said he was satisfied the newspaper had a reasonable prospect of survival. He said it was a well-managed company and has an established readership market.

Cian Ferriter, SC for Post Publications Ltd, told the court the unfortunate reality is the newspaper is seriously insolvent and not in a position to pay its debts.

On a winding down basis, a liquidation would leave deficiencies of over €6.5 million, Counsel said.

He said The Sunday Business Post was a loss making operation, with 2007 being the last year to show an operating profit.

As a result of the general economic decline, revenues at the newspaper fell from €15.6m in 2007 to €7.3m in 2012 - a 53% drop.

Advertising was responsible for the majority of the drop, having fallen by 68% in the same period.

Circulation figures for the Sunday Business Post show that 40,000 copies are sold every weekend and it has a readership of 140,000.

Circulation revenue fell from €4.9m in 2007 to €3.69m last year.

He said management had introduced cost saving measures, including substantial reduction in wages for its 76 full time staff.

He said the liabilities of the company now exceed the assets. He said the projected cost of printing during the protection period is expected to be €8,000 a week per issue.

Counsel said it was clear there was an underlying viable business, with 40,000 copies of the newspaper being sold every week. He said it was expected to speedily return to profitability by 2014.

The case, he said, was tailor-made for the courts protection.

He said the Sunday Business Post has made a significant contribution to Irish life and Irish society would be poorer without it.

Referring to the eight expressions of interest, BL for the examiner Rossa Fanning, said confidentiality agreements had been issued.

The examiner agreed that the company has a reasonable prospect of survival as a going concern and is in discussions with the landlord of the newspaper offices at Harcourt Street, Dublin for a reduction in the rent down to market levels.

The case will come before the court again on 9 April, when Mr Justice Kelly will be updated on progress to date.