Buyers eye South Africa titles as INM posts profit of €25.4m
INDEPENDENT News & Media said yesterday it has received a number of unsolicited offers for its South African operations following rumours that the papers were up for sale.
No decision to sell the papers has been made but INM, the publisher of this newspaper, announced a strategic review of its South African business with the focus now on ascertaining if a disposal of the business is achievable at the right price.
The news came as the publishing company reported a pre-exceptional operating profit of €25.4m for the first six months of 2012. Revenues slid 2.6pc in constant currency to €272.2m.
The company said earnings before interest and tax were €39.1m. The company also suffered exceptional charges of €163.7m driven by non-cash asset impairments in the APN unit Australia and by operations in Ireland.
"The island of Ireland continues to be adversely affected by both the weak domestic market conditions and the ongoing eurozone financial crisis," the company said in a statement yesterday.
"South Africa was impacted by fragile consumer and business confidence."
Still, the company's Irish newspapers remain profitable despite the crisis and continue to gain market share.
Digital revenue rose 15.2pc for the six months. Independent.ie is now ranked as Ireland's number one-read online news publishing site.
Chief executive Vincent Crowley said the company was in the process of developing an island-of-Ireland payment metering strategy, which is likely to be implemented in the first half of next year.
He said the new board appointed last week now had the "appropriate balance of skills and experience". The board was strongly supportive of the current management strategy.
The company continues to cut costs, which were reduced by 1.3pc to €246.8m in the first six months, despite inflationary cost increases in South Africa in excess of 7pc. The company has closed offices in Citywest and moved staff into the headquarters in Talbot Street in Dublin. It also introduced a voluntary redundancy programme in the 'Sunday World' and reduced printing costs for the 'Belfast Telegraph'.
Mr Crowley described forecasting operational performance of the latter half of 2012 as "challenging", as visibility was very short term.
"A key focus of H2 will be on continuing to develop our deleveraging strategy, further cost-efficiencies and addressing our pension."
He said the firm was "examining all options to provide certainty to those contributing to schemes and to secure a reasonable pension expectation for all participants, within the timeline and parameters announced by the Irish pensions board".