Helped by virtual newscaster Ananova, the Press Association has reported a record trading position for 2000.
Group operating profit, including joint ventures, rose to £5.3m, an increase of more than £1m on 1999. Turnover increased by 19 per cent.
Pre-tax profit was £93.3m compared to £15.9m in the previous year. The substantial rise included profits from the sale to Orange of the Ananova new media business.
The news comes as PA is on something of a roll.
It has recently renewed and extended contracts with News International, Trinity Mirror and the Telegraph group.
PA sales director Marc Tucker said: "The groups represent some of the leading players in the British newspaper industry."
He explained that the reputation of the wire service at the core of the business had been a major factor in the companies’ decisions to not only re-sign but increase their commitment.
Chief executive and editor-in-chief Paul Potts said: "It is clear from our performance that PA’s traditional strengths – accuracy, speed and impartiality – which underpin the wire service are finding relevance among a new generation of content-hungry customers."
PA supplies services to every national and regional daily newspaper, major broadcasters, online publishers and a wide range of commercial organisations and other customers. Its shareholders include national and regional media groups.
Chairman Sir Harry Roche said: "We are enjoying a sustained period of growth with PA developing more business-to-business services and products, most noticeably in sport.
"We have again provided substantial value to our shareholders as well as achieving our main objective of ensuring that PA’s primary wire service delivers the highest standards of editorial quality and integrity.
"The uncertainties in the present trading environment may mean that life becomes more challenging in the current trading year.
"However, the company has renewed contracts with major customers and has started 2001 well, continuing the strong performance of last year."
Potts detailed a number of initiatives to keep PA in the vanguard of modern media businesses.
They included plans for the development of a state-of-the-art northern headquarters at Howden in East Yorkshire, to which Leeds-based PA staff are already moving.
It will provide space for expansion, particularly of the growing sports operation.
By Jean Morgan