Independent News & Media, owner of the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Independent, reported a return to profit growth last year but warned that ad revenue was still falling.
The company’s underlying operating profit was up 14 per cent to â‚¬87.9m (£76m) last year on a pre-tax profit of â‚¬4.6m. Revenue was up 3.3 per cent to â‚¬605.3m.
INM’s net debt was also reduced by 17.5 per cent to â‚¬473.6m. However, advertising revenue – which comprise 41 per cent of total income – remained down last year and was seven per cent down in the year-to-date, the company said.
Gavin O’Reilly, Group Chief Executive Officer, said: ‘The last year has been hugely significant for INM.
‘After an extremely difficult 2009, we achieved what we said we were going to achieve in 2010.
‘We recorded growth in underlying Group revenue and good growth in EBITDA. Importantly we reduced our core net debt by 17.5% or over â‚¬100 millionâ€¦
‘Advertising conditions remain challenging and, while visibility remains short, we are not anticipating any material advertising uplift in 2011.
‘Assuming more normalised advertising conditions, easier comparatives, continued cost vigilance and having eliminated loss-making businesses, we are targeting a further improvement in operating profit for the year.
‘This, coupled with accelerated free cash flow generation, will ensure further, meaningful deleveraging in 2011.”
The group also announced a series of digital developments in Ireland, including the launch of a new online jobs portal later in the year, the launch of an online coupon service called GrabOne.ie, an agreement to take a 50 per cent shareholding in Carsireland.ie and the appointment of a new online editor Noirin Hegarty to oversee the ‘aggressive’redevelopment of Independent.ie.
Joe Webb, chief executive of INM’s Irish division, said: ‘Despite a still challenged ad market, we’ve enjoyed a strong year online, recording 3.2 million unique users a month for independent.ie which represents a 39 per cent increase year-on-year.
‘We’re very happy to be in a position to launch, what we believe, will become Ireland’s best jobs portal in conjunction with international industry leaders, Stepstone.”
‘GrabOne has been an outstanding success in the Australasian market and we have high hopes for it in
Ireland and carsireland.ie, Ireland’s fastest growing car sales site, complements INM’s existing motor offerings in both print and online.
‘I’m particularly pleased to announce that Noirin Hegarty is assuming the mantle as the new Editor of
independent.ie as we continue to build on our success and develop an even more dynamic and wide- ranging online offering.
‘Noirin is a hugely experienced editor, innovator and communicator who commands huge respect and I know that she is both inspired and excited by the challenge of bringing those skills to online.”