Daily Record publisher reports profits drop

THE publisher of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail newspapers, plus various Scottish local weekly titles, has seen its operating and pre-tax profits drop between 2008 and last year.

Says Trinity Mirror – in preliminary financial results published this morning – its operating profit fell £39.8 million between 2008 and last year: from £145.2 million to £105.4 million.

The fall, though, wasn’t as big as that of turnover over the same period – £108.4 million, from £871.7 million to £763.3 million – because of extensive cost-cutting.

In the immediate wake of the announcement, a question-and-answer session involving chief executive, Sly Bailey, had the Guardian newspaper reporting that there would be no more newspaper closures, following 30 shut or sold last year – though none in Scotland.

Last year, the group shed a reported 1,700 jobs, around 20 per cent of its workforce.

Other cost-cutting – in Scotland, as well as elsewhere – has included a pay freeze plus the closure of a print plant. That said, £20 million worth of further cuts are expected across the group.

Pre-tax profit fell between 2008 and 2009 from £124.2 million to £72.7 million, while the company’s net debt dropped £60.2 million over the same period to £324 million, from 384.2 million.

Among the other headlines, while digital revenue fell slightly (to £35.6 million, from £43.6 million), there was an upturn in advertising revenue prospects.

And both Daily Record and Sunday Mail last year enjoyed the highest readership in their respective daily and Sunday newspaper sectors in Scotland, even though, of the two, only the Sunday Mail is the biggest selling.

Said the company, this morning: “Both Scottish newspapers are clear market leaders in readership terms with the Daily Record reaching six per cent more readers than the number two title in the market and the Sunday Mail having 68 per cent more readers than the next best-read Sunday title.” The Record is second to The Scottish Sun in terms of daily newspaper sales in Scotland.

Among the various Scottish local weekly newspapers published by Trinity Mirror are the Ayrshire Post and the Hamilton Advertiser.

Said Bailey, in a statement: “Whilst the severity of the economic downturn experienced during 2009 impacted group revenues, the resilience of our brands and commitment of our staff ensured that we delivered profits ahead of expectations.

“We continued to reap the benefits of our investment in cutting-edge IT systems which are driving new, more efficient ways of publishing across media platforms. Ongoing tight management of the cost base enabled costs to fall by £67.9 million and was crucial in supporting our profits.

“During 2010, we will maintain a focus on costs whilst reaping the benefits of an improvement in the rate of decline in advertising revenues. Whilst the board remains cautious about the economic outlook, it anticipates a satisfactory performance for 2010.”

A group statement further adds: “We also continued with our programme of investment to modernise our publishing operations. The implementation of our new operating model across the business has resulted in a step change in the way we publish across print and digital. New state-of-the- art IT systems have enabled us to re-engineer how we publish across editorial, advertising and pre-press.

“Importantly we have not tried to do the same things with fewer people, instead, using new technology, we have made fundamental changes to the entire publishing process, achieving efficiencies and a significantly lower cost base across all functions but without detriment to quality.

“As a result the business is leaner, fitter and well positioned to take full advantage of any upturn in market conditions.”

Later this month, Trinity Mirror formally takes over the regional newspaper portfolio of the Guardian Media Group, including the Manchester Evening News, in a deal costing £7.4 million.