DMGT commits to London Lite as ad revenues climb 21%

London Lite has defied the advertising downturn and reported a 21 per cent increase in display revenue in the last three months of 2008.

In a trading update this morning, the Daily Mail and General Trust said its London free evening paper was the best performing title in the Associated Newspapers stable, which includes the Mail titles, Metro and the London Evening Standard.

DMGT said it remained committed to publishing the title, after it agreed last month to sell a 75.1 per cent stake in its paid-for sister title, the Evening Standard, to Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev.

And it said there were no talks between Associated and News International about calling a truce to the London free newspaper war, which has now been running for two and a half years.

“We remain fully committed to our retained newspaper businesses,” DMGT chief executive Martin Morgan said in a conference call with journalists this morning.

“We’ve made it very clear that we continue to publish London Lite. It’s actually doing pretty well.”

On reports of a truce with thelondonpaper, Morgan added: “We are in a sense nowhere with News International. There are no discussions – there’s nothing going on.”

Total revenues for Associated Newspapers fell five per cent to £237m in the last quarter of 2008. Operating profits in the same period were also down five per cent.

Advertising revenue declined by eight per cent, and DMGT said this worsened in January, which was down 23 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Circulation revenues, which make up 45 per cent of Associated’s print revenues, rose by one per cent in the last three months of 2008, due to cover price rises at the Mail titles.

Associated’s digital revenues in the quarter were down three per cent year on year.

Total group revenues across DMGT rose two per cent year on year to £568m in this quarter, helped by growth at its business-to-business operations and a strong dollar.

The company said total operating profits were “well ahead of expectations and only marginally below a strong first quarter last year”.

DMGT confirmed it expected no difficulties “in the foreseeable future” with its banking convenants and said its financing was secure until at least 2011.

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