A Belgian newspaper publisher has agreed a deal to buy the Independent News and Media (INM) group.
The company - which publishes the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and a host of regional titles - will be sold to Antwerp-based Mediahuis, if shareholders accept the deal.
In a statement on Tuesday morning, Mediahuis said the deal values the company at around €145.6m – or 10.5c per share.
Mediahuis is responsible for publishing a host of Belgian and Dutch newspapers - including De Standaard, Het Niewsblad and De Telegraaf.
It also operates a number of radio stations and regional TV outlets.
In a statement, INM chair Murdoch MacLennan said the board believes the deal “represents an excellent outcome for both the company and its shareholders.”
“The offer from Mediahuis represents a compelling opportunity for shareholders to realise cash for their shareholding in INM, at a price which fairly reflects the company’s performance and standalone prospects,” he said.
“INM has a proud and illustrious history stretching back to the start of the twentieth century and the INM Board believes that this offer from Mediahuis, if approved, will herald an exciting new chapter for our employees, readership and customers.
“Mediahuis already has a strong track record in newspaper and digital media development in Europe, which we feel will provide INM with the best opportunity to achieve its strategic objectives, while continuing to enable it to deliver journalism of the highest quality to the island of Ireland and our readers abroad.”
Mediahuis CEO Gert Ysebaert said: “As a private European media group with a strong portfolio of news media and digital brands, Mediahuis is optimally positioned to facilitate the continued development of INM as a leading Irish media company.”
“We believe that there is a clear rationale for the acquisition and that INM will thrive under Mediahuis’ ownership.
“Furthermore, Mediahuis can contribute the relevant experience, skills and resources to invest in INM’s brands and significantly enhance its operational and digital capabilities.
“Underpinned by our unreserved belief in independent and quality journalism, we are optimistic about the combination of Mediahuis and INM and its potential contribution to the Irish media landscape.”
Mediahuis has become a leading media player in Belgium and the Netherlands since it was established through the merger of two companies in 2013.
It currently employs more than 3,200 people – delivering a turnover of €819 million in 2018.
The group achieves sales of almost 900,000 newspapers in the Netherlands everyday across its portfolio of titles.
In Belgium is sells around 500,000 newspapers a day.
The company has said it is “committed to accelerating the digitalisation of its news brands without compromising the print editions.”
It has already put pay walls and digital subscription services in place across its European news sites.
Based in Dublin, INM employs around 800 people and achieved revenues of €191 million in the 2018 financial year.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has welcomed the development.
Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley said: "This announcement is of enormous significance. We welcome the announcement, to the extent that it ends speculation about the future of the company."
"We note that the proposed purchaser has a track record of investment in editorial resources and states that it 'believes unreservedly in independent and quality journalism'.
"I look forward to discussing their future plans for all platforms and titles, North and South, with the proposed new owners.
"In this regard I would call on the current board and management team to remove the threat of compulsory redundancies in the national and regional titles."
Additional reporting: Jack Quann