Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph owner posts 19.4% profit rise to £29m

By Ailish O'Hara

Belfast Telegraph owner Independent News & Media (INM) has reported strong profit growth in the past year boosted by increased digital advertising revenues against a backdrop of cost control.

The Dublin-based company posted pre-tax profits of €37.4m (£29m) in the year ended December 2015, up 19.4% and enhanced by a 41.7% hike in digital advertising revenues to €12.5m (£9.7m).

In the same period the company - which also owns Sunday Life, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and The Herald - cut interest costs significantly while a focus on cost management meant an improved operating margin.

The company reported revenues of €321.2m (£249m), up by just under 1%, while growth in total advertising sales was €2.8m (£2.2m), up 3.4%. 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 continued to encounter challenging conditions as it faced rapid structural change - the need to invest in and improve the quality of the offer was paramount and INM was creating the conditions to do that.

"This strategy will support both INM and its business partners; INM's market out-performance 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.

In the Republic INM accounts for more than 50% of the quality daily market and more than 65% of the quality Sunday market. The Belfast Telegraph continues to hold a strong No.1 position within the local daily newspaper market in Northern Ireland, and Sunday Life has increased circulation market share, performing ahead of local competitors. In January this year website received around 3.3m unique page impressions.

INM Ltd in Northern Ireland recently announced the acquisition of four magazines formerly belonging to Greer Publications: Hospitality Review, Ulster Grocer, Northern Woman and Ulster Business.

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