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May 3, 2018

Express and Star newspapers grow digital revenue 40 per cent amid takeover by Trinity Mirror

By Charlotte Tobitt

Digital revenue for the Express and Star newspapers has grown 40 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, according to a trading update from new owners Trinity Mirror.

But, over the four-month period to 29 April 2018 print revenue is down 8 per cent while overall revenue for to two daily titles has fallen by 5 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

Trinity Mirror completed its buyout of Express Newspapers on 28 February, and said it estimated that “revenue trends” at the Express and Star had already improved on the same period before the merger.

The group figures have been kept separate from the Express and Star revenue estimates because of a “hold separate” order imposed by the Competition Markets Authority as it investigates the takeover on media plurality grounds.

On Tuesday, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock announced he was intervening in the deal as he asked Ofcom to investigate its “media public interest considerations” and the CMA to report with its conclusions on “jurisdiction and any competition issues”, both by 31 May.

In a statement, Trinity Mirror again said its board “remains confident that the acquisition does not present any competition or media plurality issues”.

According to today’s trading update, Trinity Mirror group (excluding the Express and Star) saw revenue for the first quarter of 2018 fall 9 per cent compared to the same period last year.

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Publishing revenue fell 9 per cent, with print revenue declining by 11 per cent. Digital revenue grew 2 per cent.

Print advertising revenue fell 17 per cent and circulation revenue was down 7 per cent.

The group said an “improved national advertising performance” helped stifle the decline in print advertising revenue in March and April, but added that “severe weather conditions” during March had “negatively impacted circulation revenue”.

Digital and transactional revenue grew by 7 per cent during the four-month period, but digital classified advertising fell by 16 per cent.

Simon Fox, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, said: “I am pleased with the actions we have taken to protect print profitability whilst continuing to build our digital revenue.

“Our tight management of the business, the completion of the acquisition of the UK publishing assets of Express and Star, and appropriate investment in building our digital business make me confident that 2018 will be another year of progress.”

The group’s net debt at the end of April was estimated to be £85m, after payments of £88m relating to the takeover of the Express and Star and increased pension contributions but before payment of a £10m dividend.

Trinity Mirror will hold its annual general meeting later today.

Read the full trading update.

Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

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