APN in trading halt as largest shareholder calls for boss Chenoweth to be sacked

The management of APN News & Media was this weekend locked in high level talks over the future of boss Brett Chenoweth after the company’s biggest shareholder said it had lost confidence in him.

Shares in APN – Australia’s third biggest newspaper publisher after News Limited and Fairfax – are set to be suspended on the ASX until Tuesday after the company asked for a trading halt “pending the release of an announcement”.

The move comes after shareholder Independent News & Media – which owns just under a third of APN – called for APN boss Brett Chenoweth to be sacked. INM issued a statement saying:

“Independent News & Media PLC (‘INM’) today announces that it is seeking the removal of Mr Brett Chenoweth as Director and CEO of APN News & Media (‘APN’), in which INM holds a 28.95% shareholding.

“INM has lost confidence in Mr Chenoweth’s ability to implement the strategic initiatives necessary to reposition APN for the more challenged media landscape that has emerged in Australasia. Notwithstanding its market leading positions APN has underperformed as evidenced by a near halving of APN’s interim profits in the period from H1 2010 to H1 2012 (most recent earnings report).

“INM has formally advised APN of its views and it is seeking an Extraordinary General Meeting to facilitate all APN shareholders in expressing their views on this important matter.”

Last December’s earnings report said that the company’s revenues for the second half of 2012 were going to be down about 10% year-on-year, blaming weaker ad markets. It said it expected profits of about $150m, well down on expectations.

APN’s businesses include regional newspapers in Australia and the New Zealand Herald. It also owns half of APN Outdoor, Adshel  and Australian Radio Network. The market-beating performance of Adshel and ARN (both co-owned wiht US company Clear Channel) were bright spots in the otherwise downbeat update.

The market capitalisation of APN is currently less than $200m, with shares priced about 10% of what they were five years ago.


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