Independent News & Media has given a downbeat outlook for the rest of this year on the back of a 3.5% like-for-like fall in group revenue for the year to date.
In its last trading update ahead of its hotly-anticipated annual general meeting early next month, INM said combined circulation revenue for the 19 weeks to May 11 was down by 3% year-on-year, with total advertising revenue falling 5.3%, although, within that, digital revenue was up by 17.6%.
“Trading patterns were somewhat disrupted around the Easter period, but now appear to be returning to more normal trends, with some stronger advertising weeks interspersed among weaker ones,” a company statement said.
However, INM admitted that forecasting remains “very difficult”.
“At present, advertising conditions remain challenging and erratic. Visibility remains short and susceptible to influence by macro-economic factors,” it said.
Management added that the group’s main focus remains on cost reduction; saying that group operating costs have been reduced by 1.4%, compared to the same period last year.
Cost savings were delivered across all operations, yesterday’s statement said, with all of INM’s free cash flow in the year-to-date having been applied to debt reduction measures. The group’s net debt levels stand at approximately €420m.
“Our focus is on maximising available cash flow for continued debt paydown, which will deliver value for our shareholders,” management added.
Yesterday’s update comes on the back of a seismic month for INM, one which has seen the departure of Gavin O’Reilly as chief executive, the appointment of Vincent Crowley as his successor, and businessman Denis O’Brien increasing his stake in the group to 29.9%, placing him on the brink of outright control.
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