4 OCTOBER 1997, Page 34

Independent opinion

Sir: Stephen Glover is entitled to his view of the new Independent, of course, even if his untimely criticism was little more than a poorly disguised plug in favour of some would-be acquirers of the title. Neverthe- less, errors in matters of fact cannot go unchallenged.

Mr Glover questions our ability to find a raison d'être for the paper on the basis that 'the Irish [are] both strange to this country and also without any experience of publish- ing up-market newspapers'. As an interna- tional newspaper publishing group quoted on both the Dublin and London markets with a market capitalisation of £1 billion and worldwide turnover of £650 million, publishing over 13 million newspapers per week, we are in truth neither strangers nor strange to the United Kingdom. Not only have we been publishing regional newspa- pers in Britain for over 20 years, but we also have extensive experience of producing quality papers. The Irish Independent com- mands 32 per cent of the key ABC1 mar- ket, and is the leading Irish quality daily. The Sunday Independent with over 1 million readers weekly is even more dominant in the Irish Sunday ABC market. Both these titles compete directly with all UK quality daily and Sunday titles. We are the number one quality newspaper company in New Zealand (where we publish the New Zealand Herald with a daily circulation of 240,000); and dominate in South Africa (where we have the quality daily newspa- pers in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Dur- ban) and publish 4.5 million newspapers per week, including the recently launched and highly successful Sunday Independent and Business Report. In addition to being the number one radio and outdoor adver- tising group we are the leading regional newspaper operator in Australia. Our inter- ests also extend to Portugal (Number one and number three quality dailies).

Mr Glover's other, somewhat silly accu- sation is that 'they [Independent Newspa- pers] seem to regard the Independent as a sort of trophy to stick on the corporate board table'. The fact that we are one of the fastest-growing and most profitable media companies in the world with an annual compound growth rate over the past ten years of over 30 percent rather flies in the face of such suggestions. Indeed some brokers estimate our profits this year will exceed £100 million, a sizeable increase from the £70 million achieved in 1996. Before deriding the performance of the Independent again, he would do well to take a close look at the financial performance of its rivals and to wonder how long their pro- prietors will be prepared, or able, to sustain losses which some industry estimates pre- dict will exceed £40 million in 1997, led by the Times which has cost its shareholders over £70 million since the so-called 'price war' experiment commenced. Your colum- nist will also, I am sure, be closely following the debate in the press, where Viscount Rothermere has claimed that the Tele- graph group (proprietors of The Spectator) will also lose money in 1997.

The increase in circulation that the Inde- pendent is now enjoying is a direct result of the exciting and radical changes that have been made. We believe the paper is moving in the right direction and, on the evidence of the increased sales achieved, the newspa- per-buying public would appear to agree.

The Mirror Group has stated on a num- ber of occasions that they too are long-term shareholders and in the unlikely event that they decide to dispose of their interest they 'Ladies and gentlemen and genders various.' must of course offer their shares first to us.

We will remain serious supporters of the Independent and we are committed to ensuring its long-term viability and success. The contents of this letter will not be new to Mr Glover, yet he continues to promote the opposite view. Mr Glover is a most objective, incisive commentator on media development except in the case of the Inde- pendent. Why can this be?

Brendan M Hopkins

Independent Newspapers plc, 1-2 Upper Hatch Street, Dublin 2