In a massive move that will see News International’s website, which had been in operation since 1999, transferred to a new company, The Independent has learnt that Irish media giant News International Ireland (NII) has bought The Irish Time, the Irish newspaper’s flagship site.
The deal is valued at €3,500 per share, and will see NII acquire the site for €300m.
The sale was announced at the close of the closing bell on Tuesday.
The Irish Independent understands that the company, owned by News International, will take the site’s traffic and advertising revenues and transfer them to NII.
In the past, the company has used its influence to gain control of the newspaper’s online audience, which in turn helped to drive its value.
The company’s chairman, Richard Murphy, said the sale was part of a strategy to grow the business.
“We have been at the forefront of digital growth in the world and we are seeing significant momentum from a digital perspective, with our digital revenue increasing more than 10 per cent to €1.8bn,” he said.
“And we are looking forward to taking a significant share of the digital traffic from the Irish Times with the acquisition of The Irish Tribune, which is a digital publication and is part of the Irish Tribune Network.”
The news of the sale comes amid growing criticism of News International over its handling of allegations that senior executives at the company had sexually harassed and abused young staff.
In January, the Independent reported that the then-head of the company’s global digital arm, Nick Pickles, had resigned from his post.
The newspaper had subsequently been taken over by the online newspaper The Irish Examiner, and its news and features sections have been taken off the platform.
The Independent understands the sale of The Independent is part and parcel of News Ireland’s plan to invest heavily in digital news and content in order to compete with the likes of BuzzFeed and Facebook.
A number of Irish journalists have also been fired following the publication of a number of stories relating to News UK’s involvement in the Panama Papers scandal.
The decision to sell The Irish News, which has been in existence since 2000, to News Ireland is likely to be welcomed by the Irish media sector, which relies heavily on the publication and distribution of news and information.
However, it comes amid concerns that the digital market in Ireland has become increasingly crowded, and is also seen as a potential threat to the dominance of News UK.
In recent years, News UK has seen its revenues increase by around €150m per year and has been heavily criticised by its rivals.