INM notes stability in trading and expects higher operating profits
INDEPENDENT News and Media (INM) said yesterday that it expects continued "improvement in operating profit" this year if advertising trends "experienced so far this year continue".
Speaking at the company's annual general meeting, INM chief executive Gavin O'Reilly said the company is now in a period of "financial stability as global markets begin to recover", and following a successful restructuring of debts last year.
"This year is about building on the positive momentum that we are experiencing, further de-risking both our balance sheet and operations, and positively repositioning our businesses for sustainable growth in an anticipated upturn.
"All of these will improve INM's equity investment case and enhance shareholder returns," Mr O'Reilly told shareholders at the meeting in Dublin.
INM sold the London-based 'Independent' and the 'Independent on Sunday' newspapers in March.
Last year INM also engaged in an asset disposal plan that resulted in the sale of its South African outdoor advertising unit, stakes in a German price-comparison website and an online bingo company.
Describing 2009 as "an extraordinarily challenging year at both the operating and financial level", Mr O'Reilly said INM's successful financial restructuring last year saw the group "significantly" reduce its indebtedness and secure a new four-and-a-half-year bank package.
However, he said Ireland was still a challenging environment. "We are having a relatively good first half and have managed to increase market share. But we are seeing the benefits of our geographic diversity now."
The chief executive said he was happy with the consensus of analysts' estimates for earnings this year of between €220m-€240m and added that circulation remained challenging in all markets.
Shares were little changed at 11.6c in Dublin yesterday. "Overall we are experiencing more stability in our trading performance across each of our regions, though aggregate advertising revenues have yet to show growth on the prior year and advertising conditions remain volatile.
"Although economic conditions remain uncertain, with INM's strong operating leverage, we would continue to target an improvement in operating profit for 2010 if the trading trends experienced so far this year continue," he said.