Belfast Telegraph owner Independent News & Media has reported strong profit growth in the past year.
The Dublin-based company reported a profit of €37.4m (£28m) up 29% for the year ending December 2015.
The company said this was down to strong digital advertising revenue growth of 41.7%, a significant reduction in interest costs and the continued focus on prudent cost management resulting in an improved operating margin.
The organisation owns the Belfast Telegraph, Sunday Life, Sunday World, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and The Herald.
It reported revenues of €321.2m (£248m), up just under 1% while growth in total advertising sales was €2.8m (£21m), up 3.4% while there was also a 5% increase in distribution revenues.
Robert Pitt, group chief executive officer, said: “The Group delivered a strong performance in 2015 considering the strong headwinds the sector is experiencing."
He added that the strengthening economy created a positive environment for improved business while consumer sentiment buoyed advertising, in particular.
“Driven by digital, increases were recorded in overall group revenues and the company ended the year with a strong balance sheet, significantly improved profit before tax and strong cash flow,” he said.
However, he added that the print publishing industry continues to face challenging conditions as it faces rapid structural change, the need to invest in and improve the quality of the offer is paramount and INM is creating the conditions to do that.
“This strategy will support both INM and its business partners; INM’s market outperformance is keeping the newspaper category alive for both publishers and retail channels.
“These results have been achieved through the hard work and commitment of our employees, for which we are very grateful,” he said.
He added that while circulation revenue declined by 4.1%, INM strongly outperformed the industry average.
The Belfast Telegraph continues to hold a strong number one position within the local daily newspaper market place in Northern Ireland and the Sunday Life has increased circulation market share, performing ahead of local competitors.
The website, belfasttelegraph.co.uk, is Northern Ireland’s leading commercial news website and further strengthened its position in the market by increasing its audience by 28.1%, while the Group’s classifieds sites, including nijobfinder.co.uk and propertynews.com maintained market leading positions.
Recently, the Group announced the closure of its printing operation in Belfast reflecting the industry wide trend of reducing print volumes as consumption of news via digital channels increases, together with the ending of a key contract with a UK publisher.
In the Republic of Ireland, INM accounts for over 50% of the quality daily market, over 65% of the quality Sunday market, while Independent.ie has also strengthened its position as Ireland’s number one online news publisher across desktop and mobile - it delivered 978million page impressions in 2015 while sundayworld.com has also performed strongly in growing its audience and engagement.
Audience numbers as defined by unique visitors/month to independent.ie grew to an average of 8.9m, an increase of 9.7% on 2014, peaking at 10.7m in December 2015, while the app’s user base grew to over 208,000 highly engaged readers.
In its outlook for 2016, INM anticipates a full year performance in line with its expectations.