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Mail publisher warns of ‘volatile’ conditions

Newspaper publisher Daily Mail & General Trust said its titles were facing “volatile and uncertain” conditions after reporting further pressure on advertising revenues during April and May.

Associated Newspapers, the division that publishes the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Metro, saw advertising revenues drop 5% despite the impact of Easter and the Royal Wedding over the period.

At Northcliffe Media, which has 115 regional titles including the Bristol Evening Post and Leicester Mercury, advertising revenues were 10% below last year. DMGT said the uncertain conditions facing its consumer arm were offset by “continuing momentum” in its business information and events division.

As a group, DMGT pre-tax profits for the six months to April 3 rose 20% on an adjusted basis to £121m after revenues improved 3% to £991m.

Chief executive Martin Morgan said the company achieved a resilient first-half performance, with operating efficiencies still helping the consumer media division to improve profits by 5% to £54m.

Headcount in the consumer arm fell by 532 or 7% in the half-year, 336 of whom relate to Northcliffe Media — 11% of the regional operation's total workforce. Northcliffe's operating profits declined by 35% to £8m after advertising revenues were hit by a 28% drop in recruitment sales and an 11% fall in notices. Circulation revenues fell by 6% to £30m.

Associated's profits were 18% higher at £46m after strong trading in October and November was accompanied by headcount savings, a reduction in promotional spending and closure of some loss-making businesses a year earlier.

Circulation revenues for the Daily Mail fell by 1.9% and by 3.7% at the Mail on Sunday, but both titles continued to improve their market share, DMGT added.