Newspaper group reports higher profits

Daily Mail & General Trust today said it saw a record full-year performance from its Daily Mail and Metro newspapers as it reported a 23% leap in profits.

Daily Mail & General Trust today said it saw a record full-year performance from its Daily Mail and Metro newspapers as it reported a 23% leap in profits.

The group posted underlying pre-tax profits of £247m (€292.5m), against £201m (€238m) a year earlier, thanks to heavy cost cutting and a rebound in advertising revenues.

It delivered the highest ever earnings at the Daily Mail and freesheet Metro, contributing to a 46% profits improvement at the group’s consumer titles.

Underlying advertising revenues rose 6% in the Associated Newspapers division, but the embattled Northcliffe local and regional newspaper arm saw a 7% slide amid ongoing difficult conditions.

Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) said it was “cautiously optimistic” of achieving another year of underlying growth as recent trends have continued.

Ad revenues in Associated Newspapers rose 9% in the first seven weeks of the new year, although it said Northcliffe faced another tough year with recent revenues down 7%.

The bounce back in business in the consumer arm saw it account for 34% of group earnings in the year to October 3, up from 29% a year earlier, said DMGT.

It is having particular success with its digital operation after newspaper websites saw underlying revenues rise 54% to £12m (€14.2m) in the year.

The increasing popularity of Mail Online was largely behind this surge as traffic to the site increased by more than 70% year-on-year.

Across the group, DMGT is benefiting from previous cost savings involving swathes of job cuts and closures.

Action taken over the past year included the closure of the London Lite afternoon freesheet and most of the television activities of Teletext, while it also closed another regional printing plant at Plymouth in February.

Across Northcliffe alone, which includes around 100 regional titles, headcount has been slashed by 7% since September last year.

DMGT’s business-to-business arm fared better during the recession after profits rose 15% on an underlying basis in the past financial year.

Martin Morgan, chief executive of DMGT, said trading “exceeded our expectations throughout the year”.

But shares fell 3% today after recent strong gains.

Simon Davies, an analyst at Collins Stewart, said DMGT came out with a “strong set of full year figures”, with Associated the star performer.

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