Independent News and Media (INM), the publishing group which owns The Belfast Telegraph, reported healthy growth in the first half of the year, buoyed by positive trading in its operations in India and South Africa.
INM, which owns more than 200 publications in 22 countries, saw underlying revenues up by 3 per cent in constant currency terms to €780m (£623m). Net profits for the six months to 30 June rose 31.1 per cent to €48.7m.
The company blamed challenging trading conditions and poor consumer confidence for a 1.3 per cent decline in underlying revenues for the UK arm of the business. Operating profits also dropped, from €7.3m to €4.7m.
Falls in recruitment and property advertising in Northern Ireland, where INM owns a string of papers including the market leading Belfast Telegraph, contributed to the squeeze.
The UK operation will continue to focus on costs and seek new, streamlined processes, the company said.
Operations in the Republic of Ireland are also feeling the pinch and, although revenues were up by 0.5 per cent to €199m, operating profits were down by 3.9 per cent to €47m.
Elsewhere, figures were more positive. The South African business had a 31.5 per cent rise in profits, including those arising from acquisition of Clear Channel Independent (CCI), an outdoor advertiser. Excluding CCI, profits were up by 18.5 per cent, on the back of a 2.3 per cent rise in ad revenue and a 7 per cent growth in circulation revenues. The Sunday edition of Isolezwe, the leading Zulu-language newspaper, which was launched in March, is doing better than expected.
The group's Indian interests – made up of a 20.8 per cent stake in the Mumbai-listed Jagran Prakashan Ltd – reported revenue growth of 25.3 per cent and earnings up 36.7 per cent in the full financial year to 31 March. Revenues also rose by 12.6 per cent in the first quarter to the end of June.
Though the company warned that it was difficult to predict advertising revenues in the current climate, INM is on track to deliver profits in line with consensus forecasts on the basis of first-half trends, according to Sir Anthony O'Reilly, the chief executive.
"The group's core business model – global diversification, exposure to multimedia platforms, leading brands and striving to be the low-cost operator – continues to provide resilience against the current economic downturn and positions the company well to benefit from any improvements in general market conditions," Sir Anthony said.