Saturday 18 November 2017

INM has €120m war chest for acquisitions, posts strong profits

Independent News & Media chief financial officer Ryan Preston, chief executive Robert Pitt and editor-in-chief Stephen Rae at the INM offices in Dublin yesterday
Independent News & Media chief financial officer Ryan Preston, chief executive Robert Pitt and editor-in-chief Stephen Rae at the INM offices in Dublin yesterday
Ailish O'Hora

Ailish O'Hora

Independent News & Media has a €120m war-chest and is looking for both print and digital acquisition targets as it plans to expand the business.

Announcing a strong set of full-year results including a 30pc hike in pre-tax profits to €37.4m, INM chief executive Robert Pitt said the firm would be selective in what it buys as it broadens its revenue base.

Acquisitions would be funded from a combination of cash and debt - INM currently has net cash of just under €60m.

The company, publishers of this newspaper, is looking at print opportunities on this island and elsewhere.

The company is also looking for digital businesses and is assessing bigger markets like the UK, Mr Pitt added.

"Secondly, we are looking at the digital sphere where the geography, scale and culture are attractive for us. But these businesses would have to have quite a strong proposition with a clear road to profitability and well-established management," he added.

"And we will be very careful about how we spend shareholders' money, because the future is not clear in digital."

He added that there will be more consolidation in the media business while its future will be cemented by a print/digital strategy including acquisitions.

All of INM's three major brands outperformed the market and grew their market share in 2015. Mr Pitt said the company was investing in the quality of the brands.

The company said yesterday that the strong figures were boosted by a 41.7pc hike in digital advertising revenues to €12.5m against a backdrop of a strict cost management regime which meant an improved operating margin.

In the same period, the owner of publications including the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, The Herald and the Sunday World and Independent.ie, also cut interest costs. The company reported revenues of €321.2m, up just under 1pc while growth in total advertising sales was €2.8m, up 3.4pc while there was also a 5pc increase in distribution revenues.

Mr Pitt added: "The group delivered a strong performance in 2015 considering the strong headwinds the sector is experiencing."

He said 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.

He pointed out that the print publishing industry continues to face challenging conditions and although circulation revenue declined by 4.1pc, INM strongly outperformed the industry average.

"These results have been achieved through the hard work and commitment of our employees, for which we are very grateful," he added.

In the Republic of Ireland, INM accounts for over 50pc of the quality daily market, over 65pc of the quality Sunday market. And INM's Dublin newspaper - The Herald - is set for a reinvestment, he said.

Irish Independent

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