Digital growth fuels 27 per cent profit rise at FT group

  • FT figital subscriptions up 29 per cent to 267,000
  • Digital subscribers exceed print circulation in the US for the first time
  • Advertising remains ‘generally weak and volatile’

Adjusted operating profit at the FT Group grew by 27 per cent to £76m in 2011 and turnover was up 6 per cent to £427m, parent company Pearson announced in its end of year results this morning.

Growth at the division which includes the Financial Times was driven by a surge in that title’s digital readership with online subscriptions up 29 per cent to 267,000 and registered users up 33 per cent to more than 4 million.

But Pearson also warned that advertising remained ‘generally weak and volatile with poor visibility”, slumping from 59 per cent of FT Group turnover in 2007 to just 42 per cent in 2011.

With paid print and digital circulation reaching 600,000 last year, the group now claims to have achieved the highest circulation in the history of the FT. At the end of 2011 digital subscribers exceeded print circulation in the US for the first time.

According to the most recent figures from ABC the FT had a print circulation of 72,359 in the US in January.

Content revenues comprised 58 per of FT Group revenue in 2011, up from 41 per cent in 2007, and FT digital subscriptions account for approximately 44 per cent of total paid circulation.

Pearson also announced that the FT Group’s profits will be lower in 2012 than in 2011 due to the sale of its 50 per cent stake in FTSE International and ‘further actions weighted towards the first half of the year to accelerate the shift from print to digital”.

Both the FT and The Economist Group, in which Pearson owns a 50 per cent stake, are predicting ‘weak advertising markets but strong growth in digital subscription revenues”.

Pearson reported a 72 per cent increase in total pre-tax profits to £1.15bn for 2011 and a 10 per cent rise in group operating profit on an adjusted basis

Total group revenue, which includes book publisher Penguin, was up 4 per cent to £5.9bn.

Chief executive Marjorie Scardino said: ‘The external environment provides a testing backdrop for these results, and all our industries face some degree of turbulence.

‘But our strategy and long-term planning for change have helped us to another good year to add to our record of persistent out-performance.

‘We believe those qualities, combined with the commitment and innovation of our people, will continue to serve our customers and our shareholders well.”

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