Independent News & Media, the owner of the Belfast Telegraph, today posted pre-tax profits of €96.6m for the first half of 2008, up slightly from €94.1m a year ago.
The Dublin-based international media group said revenue was up by 3% in “underlying terms”, although down by 3.7% when currency movements were stripped out.
Operating profit for the six months to the end of June was up by 8.9% to €134.8m, while profit after tax showed an increase, in constant currency terms, of 7.9% to €80.5m.
Sir Anthony O’Reilly, the INM group chief executive officer, said the group revenue of €780.4m, a growth of 3% in underlying terms, was an “impressive performance” in a challenging market.
He said: “The current economic climate presents a challenge to all media companies throughout the world.
“It also presents opportunities, not least the potential for joint ventures, shared investments, mergers and divestments which may change perceptions of the structure and nature of media.
"The pattern of these unusual structural opportunities will, we believe, be of benefit to shareholders, and bring renewed confidence back to the sector as the global economy goes through its present recessionary period.
"While it is difficult to forecast advertising revenues reliably for the second half — as we have only experienced the two traditionally quiet summer months — trading in the next three months leading up to Christmas, will be critical in determining the full year result.
“However, as second half comparators are easier and, assuming a continuation of the first half advertising trends, INM believes that it will achieve profits in line with consensus forecasts for the full year.”
Sir Anthony said the group’s core business model of global diversification and exposure to multi-media platforms, plus striving to be a low cost operator - continued to provide resilience against the economic downturn.
The company, which also publishes The Irish Independent and The Independent, and which has extensive media interests in South Africa, India and Australia, said that underlying advertising and circulation revenues were ahead of last year. In Northern Ireland, INM said that lower than expected government expenditure and the sharp reversal of the property sector had affected business confidence and consumer spending.
But it said that the Belfast Telegraph continued to be the “clear number one newspaper”, having increased circulation by 1% for the first six months of this year compared with the last six months of 2007.