Newfoundland Capital shifts to broadcast

The owner of 15 community newspapers in Newfoundland has announced an ambitious plan to reinvent itself into a corporation focused on broadcasting.

Newfoundland Capital Corp. told shareholders at its May 2 annual meeting in Halifax that it would cease being a conglomerate, with holdings in printing, publishing through its Robison-Blackmore division, and concentrate on the radio sector across the country.

In the past, the corporation has had holdings in transportation, hotels and a host of other sectors. Under CEO and Chairman Harry Steele, the company has slowly been divesting all but its media properties.

Newfoundland Capital already owns 55 radio stations in Newfoundland, Alberta, Nova Scotia and in Ottawa. Mr. Steele indicated that funds raised through the sale of print assets could be used to pay down debt or to acquire additional radio stations.

According to Mr. Steele, the move to broadcasting will improve market valuation of the company because radio stations trade at higher multiples than other sectors. At the same meeting, Mr. Steele announced that he is giving up the title CEO to his son Rob Steele. Mr. Steele senior will retain the position of Chair. This latest announcement adds more fuel to speculation that the newspaper landscape in Atlantic Canada is set to change drastically over the coming weeks and months.

The Irving family is actively pursuing community newspapers in its home province of New Brunswick after an earlier purchase of an equity position in the Miramichi Leader from owner David Cadogan. It is also thought that the Irvings are investigating the purchase of regional dailies currently owned by CanWest Global.