APN trading halt after CEO job report

Last updated 14:35 15/02/2013

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New Zealand Herald owner APN News and Media has been placed in a trading halt following reports chief executive Brett Chenoweth's job is in jeopardy.

Trading in the trans-Tasman publisher's shares on the ASX and the NZX were suspended at the company's request, pending an announcement.

The company's two major shareholders are seeking to oust Chenoweth over plans for a capital raising, the Australian Financial Review reports.

APN's biggest shareholder, Ireland-based Independent News & Media, which owns 29 per cent, is seeking an extraordinary general meeting to remove him, the AFR said.

INM, whose major shareholder is Irish telco billionaire Denis O'Brien, said in a statement it had "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," reported UK-based The Independent newspaper.

"Notwithstanding its market-leading positions, APN has underperformed, as evidenced by a near halving of APN's interim profits in the period from the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2012," INM added.

APN is due to report its 2012 annual result next Thursday.

APN's second-largest shareholder, fund manager Allan Gray, which owns 19 per cent, is against the proposed capital raising and has threatened to remove Chenoweth and any directors who support it if it goes ahead, the AFR said.

"We're absolutely opposed to the rights issue," said Simon Marais, managing director of Allan Gray.

"If we have to spill the CEO and the board we will."

APN said it requested the trading halt in light of the media reports.

"APN is investigating these comments, but believes these comments arise from the fact that APN is considering a pro rata capital raising, in respect of which it is being advised by Macquarie Capital," it said in a statement.

"The non-INM representative directors of APN unanimously support Mr Brett Chenoweth and the strategy being implemented under his leadership."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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