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Alexander Lebedev

London Independent newspapers sold for $1.50

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Alexander Lebedev

Irish media group Independent News and Media (INM) has sold its London titles Independent and Independent on Sunday to Independent Print Limited (IPL) for $1.50.

The titles and all the staff of the UK titles will transfer to IPL, which is owned by Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev.

Group chief executive for INM Gavin O'Reilly said the sale was "satisfactory and positive" for shareholders and its staff.

INM will pay IPL over $14.million over the next 10 months to take on any future liabilities. The London titles made a loss of $18.5million last year alone and employ 300 people.

"The transaction will be immediately earnings accretive for INM. After our successful refinancing in late 2009, this transaction marks an important milestone in the repositioning of our Group and will allow INM to focus solely on its market leading, cash generative assets in Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand," said O'Reilly.

Shares in INM rose to 10.4% per cent yesterday on Dublin's stock market.

Lebedev is a former KGB agent who bought London's Evening Standard last year. Lebedev says that he plans to establish a not for profit media foundation that would finance media titles around the world, such as his pro democracy Russian title Gazeta.

Lebedev also thanked INM's main shareholder Tony O'Reilly for supporting the sale.

"Tony O'Reilly and his family have been stalwart, innovative and courageous investors who have allowed an important paper to provide some of the most authoritative and remarkable journalism, which has rightly won respect and admiration worldwide," said Lebedev.

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