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Lep Inn's €99,000 To Fund Newstalk

The company that owns the Leopardstown Inn pub in south Dublin has stumped up €99,000 in a cash call for radio station Newstalk 106-108fm.

Hyper Trust Ltd, which owns and runs the Leopardstown Inn on Brewery Road, made the investment in News 106 Ltd as part of a recent €519,000 cash call from shareholders for the talk radio station.

Accounts for News 106 Ltd are consolidated in its parent, Communicorp Ltd and are not filed separately in the Companies Office.

A note in the 2012 accounts for Hyper Trust Ltd, filed in October 2013, states: “The total amount invested in News 106 Ltd as at 31 December 2012 amounted to €3,471,036, made up of an 18.89% equity investment of €2,128,336, loan notes to the value of €845,137 and short term loans of €497,563.

“The recoverability of this investment is subject to uncertainty due to the prevailing economic and financial environment.”

The €519,000 cash call for News 106 Ltd took place in March 2014. Denis O'Brien's Radio Two Thousand Ltd invested €319,000 while Michael O'Rourke's Setanta Radio Ltd invested €92,000.

Newstalk revealed today that the company has lodged a formal complaint with the EU Commission in Brussels.

The station is claiming that the payment by the Irish State to RTÉ of TV licence fees is not compatible with EU rules on State Aid and therefore such payments are illegal.

Newstalk's complaint alleges that RTÉ consistently uses TV licence fee income in a manner contrary to the terms approved by the European Commission under EU State Aid rules.

Newstalk alleges that the aid RTÉ receives in the form of TV licence fees is in breach of the State Aid rules because RTÉ is failing to operate in an efficient manner so as to maximise revenues.

The complaint also outlines RTE's refusal to broadcast television advertisements from Newstalk. In addition the complaint states that RTE is aggressively undercutting prices for radio advertisements by selling them on a below cost basis.

Newstalk CEO Gerard Whelan said:  “Commercial stations in Ireland do not receive any funding from the state and therefore RTE should not be allowed to abuse its position by refusing to accept revenue from Newstalk and other stations.

“The national oversight mechanisms are not sufficient to ensure RTE's respects market principals and their predatory pricing cannot be justified. Newstalk intends to fight this abuse of a dominant position and will ensure that the European Commission is aware of RTE's activities.”

Hyper Trust Ltd, where the directors are Brian Reddy and Des Reddy, had liabilities of €6m at 31 December 2012. The Lep Inn pub was valued in the balance sheet at €6.5m and the Newstalk investment was valued at €2.1m. The company's year-end net worth was €4.6m.(September 2014)

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