‘Business Post’ will be out on Sunday

The Sunday Business Post is expected to publish as normal this weekend after the High Court yesterday appointed an interim examiner to Post Publications Ltd, which owns and publishes the broadsheet.

The newspaper — which employs 76 full-time staff — has seen its revenues halve in the past five years, is loss making and insolvent but has a reasonable prospect of survival as a going concern provided certain conditions are met, the High Court heard.

Appointing Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton as interim examiner, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said he was satisfied the appointment was “desirable and necessary”.

Mr Justice Kelly was told up to 25 redundancies may have to be sought at the newspaper as part of a restructuring.

An independent accountant’s report, the judge was told, concluded there was a reasonable prospect for the survival of the newspaper as a going concern, provided certain conditions were met including the support of AIB, which has confirmed it will support the newspaper as the examinership continues.

Outlining the petition to the court, counsel said the newspaper employed 76 people and about 120 freelance contributors and had a readership of 140,000 — 10% of the overall Sunday broadsheet market readership. As a result of the general economic decline, revenues had fallen from €15.6m in 2007 to €7.3m in 2012 — a 53% drop. Advertising was responsible for the majority of the drop, having fallen by 68% in the same period.

Circulation figures for the Sunday Business Post show circulation revenue fell from €4.9m in 2007 to €3.69m last year.

Wages and salaries amount to 47% of the newspaper cost base along with printing costs, newsprint, and the rental on the Sunday Business Post offices at Harcourt St, Dublin.

Counsel said the newspaper had been loss making since the end of the 2009 financial year having reported a profit of €1.6m the previous year. The reported net operating loss in 2009 was €734,000 rising to €1.2m for the year ended Jan 1, 2013.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly was told management has engaged in a root-and-branch effort to renegotiate all costs, with all general overhead costs including marketing, editorial and distribution having been reduced. Pay cuts were accepted by staff and the cost base reduced by €3.27m since the start of 2009. Two rounds of pay cuts in 2010 yielded €450,000 savings and management has proposed a further pay cut of 7% for staff generally.

The Sunday Business Post leases its Harcourt St premises in Dublin from Irish Life Assurance PLC under a 25-year lease from 1990 for an annual rent of €440,000 which is subject to five-yearly upward-only rent reviews. Mr Justice Kelly was told the newspaper believed it was paying twice the market rate for rent and currently is over €590,000 in arrears. It has been paying half of the rent due under the lease due to its financial difficulties.

In the last financial year to the end of Jan 2013 the newspaper sustained an operating loss on trading activities of €1.203m, with the projected loss on trading activities for the rest of this year in the region of €1.4m, with a projected return to profitability in 2014.

The matter will come before the court again on Mar 15.


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