September 18, 2009 / 4:10 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-O'Brien sees London's Independent closed by Dec

* Says deal with bondholders possible but far from certain

* O’Brien: London Independent to close by Xmas

(Adds more comments to reporters)

DUBLIN, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Independent News & Media INME.I is likely to close its flagship London title The Independent by Christmas, the publishing group’s second biggest shareholder Denis O’Brien said on Friday.

“There’s no point in us as a company subsidising a newspaper that really nobody wants to read in the United Kingdom,” O’Brien told Bloomberg TV in an interview on the sidelines of the Global Irish Economic Forum.

“It’s not a relevant newspaper anymore and this newspaper’s going to be closed by Christmas,”said O’Brien, who has been at odds with the company’s board over plans to refinance a 200-million-euro debt issue that was meant to be paid in May.

Newspaper sales in Britain have been dwindling for years in the face of growing competition from television online news providers.

“There is the possibility of a consensual deal (with bondholders) but it is by no means certain,” O’Brien told reporters separately at the conference. “The situation is serious and fraught.”

INM’s board on Tuesday criticised O’Brien’s request for an investor meeting over the refinancing plans, saying his “personal antagonism” towards management would damage its trading prospects, staff morale and reputation. [ID:LF88509]

“This is not a personal thing,” O’Brien said. “I’ve made a substantial investment in the company and I have said ... we need to reduce our costs, get out of loss-making business and restructure.”

Reporting by Andras Gergely and Ben Deighton

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