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Independent News & Media has announced that it has agreed to sell its entire shareholding in the mobile application vendor iTouch for €100m.

For-side.com, a Japanese-based provider of mobile phone content, is to buy all of Independent News and Media's (INM) 152,840,212 iTouch shares at €0.65 cents per share. INM's shareholding is equivalent to 37.44 per cent of iTouch's issued share capital.

This price represents a 26.6 per cent premium on iTouch's closing middle-market share price on 27 April 2005 and delivers a return for INM of over 300 per cent on its original cash investment in the company. INM said that the proceeds from the deal will be used for general corporate purposes and to further enhance the group's publishing brands.

"We are happy that a small idea, started in South Africa, has worked to the benefit of the whole group in such spectacular fashion," commented INM's chief executive, Tony O'Reilly "Having first identified and invested in this fledgling start-up back in 1997 and having listed it on the London Stock Exchange in August 2000, the receipt of €100m in cash will represent a remarkable and most rewarding journey for all of our shareholders. This very attractive return on our investment reflects our stated objective of consistently delivering superior returns for our shareholders."

iTouch, which bought Finnish mobile entertainment services firm Jipii in July last year, is one of the largest listed European mobile content companies and has operations in 25 countries. iTouch provides information, entertainment and messaging services directly to consumers and via affiliate partners and network operator portals.

For the year ended 31 December 2004, iTouch reported group revenue of £78.0m and EBITDA of £8.1m. The company went in to 2005 with net assets of £43.2m.

For-side.com has approximately 12.5 million subscribers globally. Through its wholly-owned subsidiary For-side.com.uk the company already holds 18,248,276 iTouch shares, equivalent to 4.5 per cent of the firm.

In addition, the company has received irrevocable undertakings for a further 200,104,118 shares representing approximately 49.0 per cent of the existing issued share capital of iTouch. As a result, For-side.com either holds, or has received irrevocable undertakings in respect of around 53.5 per cent of the mobile application vendor.

Copyright © 2005, ENN

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