Independent sale 'imminent' as UK losses deepen

Independent News and Media said this morning the sale of its flagship UK Independent titles to Alexander Lebedev was expected “very shortly” as it revealed a fall in operating profit of 39 per cent to €177.2m for the year to March.

Revenue for the year dropped 14.9 per cent to €1.25bn, the company said this morning as it published its full year results.

INM said it made a loss before tax of €31.4m. The previous year the business made a loss of €161.4m.

Gavin O’Reilly, INM chief executive, said: “Following the successful conclusion to our complex financial debt refinancing in 2009, it is reassuring to be able to now look forward to 2010 where we will build on the underlying profitability and real progress that INM’s operations achieved in 2009, with solid market share advances and continued efficient cost management.

“Both advertising and underlying profitability in each of our geographic regions stabilised in the second half of 2009 and that trend has continued into 2010, with certain markets already showing year-on-year operating profit growth.

“While it is still very early in the year, if these current trends continue, we would target an improvement in operating profit for 2010. In the immediate term, vigilant cost management and further debt reduction will remain priorities and, as economies recover, we will focus on converting our leading market share positions into revenue and operating profit growth.”

The group recorded an exceptional charge of €145.8m in 2009, it said today, of this €95.4m related to a reduction in the value of assets due to the economic downturn.

INM’s Ireland division reported revenues down 14.8 per cent to €357.5m and operating profit before exceptional items down 42.5 per cent to €44.3m.

The company said its UK division, which includes the Belfast Telegraph and the London-based Independent titles, reported revenue down 20.7 per cent to €122.7m and an operating loss of €6.9m. The previous year the UK division had made a loss of €1.1m.

Advertising revenues at the Belfast Telegraph dropped 29.7 per cent year on year, the company added, while advertising revenue at its London newspapers was down 33.1 per cent year on year.

Despite this, the company said that the London titles reduced their losses thanks to major cost savings. These included moving into new offices shared with the Daily Mail.

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