INM 'back in growth' despite a challenging market, agm told
Using its strong balance sheet to make acquisitions is the best way to build value for Independent News & Media's (INM) shareholders, chief executive Robert Pitt said yesterday.
Speaking at a well attended annual general meeting at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin, Mr Pitt said targeted acquisitions will diversify the media group's revenue base for the future.
Revenue at INM rose last year for the first time in eight years, shareholders heard at the meeting, which was chaired by senior independent director Jerome Kennedy. Total revenue grew strongly at INM in the first four months of this year, boosted by its distribution arm, the company said.
"We are back in growth," Robert Pitt told shareholders a the AGM.
The business faces challenges in a "positive way", he said.
However, advertising revenue has suffered a decline, he said.
The four months to the end of April saw continued strong growth in digital advertising revenue, but not enough to fully offset an accelerated decline in print advertising revenue, INM said in a trading statement ahead of the annual general meeting.
"The challenging market conditions against which INM achieved a strong performance in 2015, have, as anticipated, continued into 2016 with the print advertising market experiencing ongoing volatility," INM chairman Leslie Buckley said in a note read to shareholders.
All resolutions put to the shareholders were carried, including the re-election of directors.
Mr Buckley was unable to attend the meeting in person due a leg injury, the agm was told.
INM is Ireland's leading media business, publishing titles including the market-leading Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and independent.ie.
Management believes the group continues to outperform the market in both advertising and circulation categories and continues to grow its market share, the company said.
INM said it continues its focus on cost management and has identified savings to offset the decline in print revenue.
The business has also said it is actively in the hunt for acquisitions to diversify its revenue base. "INM has shaped itself into a business that moves decisively and effectively and will continue to grow market share in the print business, embrace the digital opportunities through independent.ie, the leading online news offering in Ireland, and utilise our strengthened balance sheet to acquire businesses that will strengthen and diversify our offering and create shareholder value," the company said.
In guidance, INM's board said it anticipates profit before tax performance for the full year to be within the range of market expectations.
With advertising revenue under pressure, Robert Pitt said INM was looking at cost savings that could potentially include redundancies.
"We will always look to do those redundancies in a way where it is voluntary," Mr Pitt said.
Print remains important to readers and advertisers, but the market is changing, he said.
Big advertisers are not moving away from print, but want "more complex solutions to reach customers", Mr Pitt said.
Consolidation and co-operation is needed in the media industry, he said.