Independent owner close to deal over debt

THE publisher of the Independent newspaper is thought to be close to a debt-for-equity deal that would end uncertainty over its finances after months of talks with lenders.

It would allow Anthony O'Reilly, Independent News & Media's former chief executive, to remain the largest shareholder of the publisher whose titles range from the Irish Independent to South Africa's Cape Times. But the deal may be challenged by Denis O'Brien, the second-biggest investor, who wants the loss-making London-based Independent sold.

The media group has been trying for months to refinance an overdue 200 million (179m) senior bond and sources said a deal would involve about 100m to 120m being swapped for a stake in the company, followed by a rights issue to pay the rest.