FT Group sees profits rise from subscriptions and digital

The FT Group has defied the economic downturn with an eight per cent profit rise in 2008, helped by digital and subscriptions revenue growth.

In its end-of-year results, Financial Times parent company Pearson said revenues at FT Group – which includes the newspaper, website and its interactive data division – were up seven per cent on a like-for-like basis to £796m.

Like-for-like operating profits, ignoring fluctuating exchange rates, acquisitions and disposals, rose eight per cent to £195m.

Pearson said advertising revenues at the FT Group – which make up only a quarter of its total revenue – fell three per cent in 2008 as financial institutions and technology companies cut their marketing spend.

Digital revenues represented 67 per cent of FT Group revenues last year, up from 28 per cent in 2000.

FT.com subscribers grew nine per cent year on year to 109,609. Registered users increased more than five-fold in the same period, from 150,000 to 966,000.

Pearson said it expected “a tough year” for the FT Group but it hoped subscription renewal rates would remain high as readers continued to seek “high-quality analysis of global business, finance, politics and economics”.

The group said it had taken “a series of actions to reduce costs”. In January, it announced 80 job cuts – including those of 20 journalists – and is also cutting the pagination of its UK edition by two pages.

Pearson chief executive Marjorie Scardino said she expected the company to remain “hardy and aggressive” and did not expect economic conditions to improve any time soon.

“Over the past five years, Pearson has produced steadily rising sales, profits, earnings, cash and returns,” she said.

“We are particularly pleased to have continued that record in 2008 in the face of a sharp economic downturn.

“This is the result of steady investment and execution of our strategy over the long-term.”

Pearson’s total group revenues were up eight per cent on a like-for-like basis to £4.61bn, with operating profit up 11 per cent to £762m.

The group increased its profit margin from 14.9 per cent to 15.8 per cent.

Pearson has recently sold its stakes in a number of foreign-language business titles, including French financial daily Les Echos and FT Deutschland, and invested in turning the FT and FT.com into a global brand.

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