May 18, 2018 / 7:55 AM / 5 months ago

Independent News & Media opposes appointment of inspectors

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Independent News & Media (INM) (INME.I), Ireland’s largest newspaper group, has opposed the appointment of inspectors by the country’s corporate watchdog to look into an alleged data security incident, it said in a statement on Friday ahead of its annual shareholder meeting.

Ireland’s Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) began an investigation into INM in March following a clash between the company’s then chief executive and chairman in 2016 over the terms of a possible acquisition of Irish radio station Newstalk.

Newstalk’s parent group Communicorp is owned by Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien. O’Brien is INM’s largest shareholder with a stake of 29.9 percent.

INM Chairman Murdoch MacLennan said the company had decided to oppose the appointment of ODCE inspectors because it was in the company’s and shareholders’ interests.

“The company’s application was heard by the High Court last week, and we await the Court’s decision,” he said in a statement to be delivered at the AGM.

He also said the company had appointed Deloitte to conduct a full investigation and that INM would continue to co-operate fully with the ODCE and with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

He said the board had notified a data security incident to the Data Protection Commissioner in August 2017, including allegations that this could have included data maintained by journalists for the purposes of their professional activities.

“If it has occurred, this is entirely deplorable,” the chairman said in the statement.

“The Board is particularly concerned by the suggestion that data maintained by journalists for the purposes of their professional activities might have been accessed for any improper purpose.”

INM also gave an update on its trading performance, confirming that trading year-to-date continued to be in line with market expectations despite challenges from the weather in March and bigger declines in digital advertising.

Reporting by Graham Fahy. Editing by Jane Merriman

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