Future pays back furlough cash as financial outlook stays 'strong' despite lockdown

Magazine publisher Future is the latest media company to pay back its furlough money from the Government as it expects to grow profits this year despite the coronavirus crisis.

Future said it remains on track for its 2020 financial year to be towards the top end of expectations with adjusted earnings (EBITDA) for the year ending 30 September of between £86.3m and £91m.

In 2019, Future reported adjusted EBITDA of £54.5m.

Future took early damage control, announcing plans to close six magazines just one week into the UK’s lockdown as retail footfall fell and hit newsstand sales.

The company has now said: “In recognition of the group’s continued strong performance, it is repaying the support previously received from the UK Government furlough scheme.”

It put this down to strong digital audience numbers helped by an increased consumer shift to digital media during the Covid-19 lockdown alongside “strong cost control” and the “acceleration of synergies” following its buyout of fellow magazine publisher TI Media.

But an unconfirmed number of job losses are now being proposed as part of the next phase of these synergies.

Future said it has already secured £9m of a planned £15m in annual cost synergies since the merger was announced in October, with £3m of those savings to benefit the 2020 financial year. Restructuring costs of £9m are expected by September 2021.

Future has now launched three new websites – Gardeningetc.com, Whattowatch.com and Fitandwell.com – using editorial teams from TI Media and it has hired sales and marketing expertise in the US to start expanding the reach of TI brands across the Atlantic.

Future chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne said: “We remain confident in the long-term opportunity to create value through integrating TI Media’s brands into our unique portfolio and optimising their performance by leveraging our technology platform to build digital presence, introduce new revenue models and capitalise on the opportunity to expand our reach beyond the UK, particularly in the US.

“Furthermore, the strong group performance we reported at our half-year results has continued and we remain confident of delivering another year of growth within our portfolio and further strategic progress.”

The Spectator and The Telegraph announced last month they will pay back all the money they received from the Government’s job retention scheme.

Both said strong subscription performances had helped mitigate the financial hit from the pandemic which many more advertising-reliant media businesses have faced.

Future completed its £140m acquisition of TI Media in April after selling off three titles over concerns raised by the UK’s competition watchdog.

It now owns around 200 specialist magazine titles including Four Four Two, Woman and Home and Total Film, and claims a global circulation of more than 3m.

Picture: Future

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