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May 22, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:19am

Future tripled half-year pre-tax profits before Covid-19 hit newstrade and events

By Charlotte Tobitt

Magazine publisher Future tripled its pre-tax profits in the first half of this year before Covid-19 brought about the collapse of newsstand sales and forced events to be cancelled..

Profit before tax in the six months to 31 March reached £27.1m, up from £8.9m over the same period last year.

Revenues grew by a third to £144.3m, while adjusted operating profit was up 77% to £39.9m.

Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne (pictured) said this was a “very strong” performance despite the impact of Covid-19 and would allow the company to continue investing “through the development of new functionality and new content to drive revenue in the coming months and years”.

Social distancing measures and lockdowns which began in the UK on 23 March resulted in a “significant slowdown” in newstrade and the cancellation of three large events that month.

Future has closed six magazines as the drop in retail footfall affected sales and told contributors it was temporarily reducing its freelance budget “in some areas”.

But the publisher said an acceleration in audience growth helped offset the negative impact, reaching a record 329m global online users in March (up 66% year-on-year) as people stuck indoors looked for advice and recommendations.

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Byng-Thorne said: “We are seeing a rapid acceleration in the migration to online with a significant growth in online users looking for both entertainment and advice in their areas of interest as well as a rapid shift towards online retail.

“Future’s diversified business model, global footprint and strong financial discipline means that we have been able to withstand the immediate challenges of the pandemic.”

Future completed its £140m takeover of rival magazine publisher TI Media last month, meaning it now owns more than 220 brands globally.

Integration of the two companies is now underway. Both companies have furloughed staff.

Future said TI Media’s “performance has been impacted” by the drop in magazine sales since March, but added: “…the strategic rationale to implement Future’s strategy across the TI brands and audience remains compelling”.

The buyout has added a large female readership to Future, which is currently skewed towards male audiences with a number of gaming, technology and music titles.

Future also plans to expand TI Media’s brands outside the UK using its infrastructure in the US and Australia.

Byng-Thorne said: “The acquisition of TI Media, completed in April, introduces many opportunities for us to add value to their strong portfolio of brands by utilising our technology platform to build digital presence, introduce new revenue models and an opportunity to expand reach beyond the UK, particularly in the US.

“It also introduces new content categories and audiences to the group whose needs we look forward to meeting in the coming years.

“Our performance in the first half of the current year has been extremely strong; the downturn due to Covid-19 makes market conditions uncertain for the remainder of the year.

“However, due to our operating model, strategy and diversified revenue streams, the group is well placed to navigate the challenges ahead.”

Picture: Future

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