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January 16, 2023updated 17 Jan 2023 12:43pm

DC Thomson 2021/22 profits hit by £8m increase in energy and paper costs

The Press and Journal and Stylist publisher recorded an after-tax loss for year to March 2022.

By Bron Maher

Revenue at Scottish news publisher DC Thomson rose 7.3% in the year to March 2022, reflecting the post-lockdown recovery that buoyed much of the media in 2021.

But the Press and Journal and Stylist publisher nonetheless recorded an after-tax loss in its accounts.

The company saw major boosts to its events, advertising, radio and genealogy revenues, while circulation revenue continued to decrease.

Across the year, DC Thomson said revenue rose £10.7m on the 2021 financial year to £174.1m. Revenues are not yet back to where they were before the pandemic: in the year to March 2020 total revenue stood at £180.4m.

Meanwhile, total costs stood at £165.5m, down from £172.449 in 2021. The company said it recorded “increased direct costs with raw materials and consumables up by £8m”, or approximately 15%. This was driven in part, it said, by “supply chain issues both during and after the pandemic” and then the conflict in Ukraine, which began in February and drove the price of energy and paper up in particular.

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Profit before taxation was £7.3m – but tax for the year was £34.2m, causing an overall loss for the 2022 financial year of £25.8m. (Profits were also hit by a nearly £34m loss from the decline in value of financial assets.)

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In its last accounts, for the year to March 2021, DC Thomson reported a revenue drop of 11% but its highest-ever profits - £338.7m before tax. The sharp rise came primarily from a rise in the value of outside investments.

Despite the lower profits, in the 2022 financial year the family-owned company issued a dividend to shareholders of £24m, up from £22m the year before. The 2022 figure was composed of an £18.7m final dividend and a £5.4m interim dividend. 

Recurring sales revenue rose 7.3% in the year to £156.3m. Within that, advertising and marketing services grew 22.9%, to £24.7m; radio revenue rose 53.3%, to £2.3m; and events revenue rose 400%, from £600,000 to £3m, reflecting the post-lockdown return to in-person events.

The company’s radio brands are Kingdom, Original and Pure Radio Scotland, all of which are Scottish-based.  

Circulation revenues, the company said, “were marginally down”. But it said falls in newspaper and magazine newsstand sales “were largely compensated by increases in print and digital subscriptions”. In particular, DC Thomson wrote that it had seen "increased revenues in digital publishing as subscriber numbers developed in line with our transformation strategy". DC Thomson celebrated reaching 25,000 digital subscribers in October 2022, after the end of the 2022 financial year, while its target is to reach 75,000 by 2025.

The business also furthered its dominance of the UK puzzle market, “with our share of the UK newsstand puzzle market increasing marginally over this financial year from c46% of all sales to c47%”.

A business segment that performed well for DC Thomson was genealogy, which accounted for £25.2m of the company’s revenue in the year. Genealogy represented 16.1% of income in 2022, up from 15.2% the year before.

The company benefited from exclusive rights to publish the 1921 Census of England and Wales, which was “released exclusively online at [DC Thomson subsidiary] Findmypast in January 2022, after three years of intensive digitisation and conservation work”.

DC Thomson's chairman, Christopher Thomson, said: "The impact of our transformation programme and the easing of disruption caused by the pandemic both contributed to an improved year of trading for DC Thomson in the year to March 2022.

"We saw encouraging growth in subscriptions, events and digital revenues with growth revenues outstripping the decline in traditional print revenues for the first time.

"The first half of this current financial year saw that growth continue but we, like all UK businesses, now face considerable economic headwinds.

"But we take a long-term view. We are confident that we have the right strategy in place and continue to invest in building the business for a sustainable future."

DC Thomson continues to employ approximately 1,600 people according to its accounts, level with the staffing numbers it reported in 2021. The company said it used no non-renewable electricity across the 2022 financial year.

Looking ahead, the company said it was continuing as planned with its plans "to protect profits and diversify revenue streams", in particular by "building out capability for the future with new technologies and tools, and a significant programme of retraining and upskilling". It foresaw headwinds, from supply chain issues and inflation.

"This has resulted in an ongoing review of all media activities to maximise cost efficiency and continued investment in our 'build once for re-use' tools, capabilities and technology stack."

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
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  • Retired
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