Telegraph boosts pre-tax profit to £6.2m for 2019 - making for £452m total under Barclays ownership

Telegraph Media Group’s pre-tax profits since the Barclay brothers took ownership in 2004 have now reached a total of £452m – still £213m less than they paid for it.

Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay (pictured) bought the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph for £665m in June 2004.

In 2019 the newspaper group made £6.2m in pre-tax profit, up 600% from 2018 but still the third lowest profit level since the businessmen took ownership from Conrad Black.

TMG’s most profitable year since online Companies House records begin in 1994 was in 2000 with pre-tax gains of £75.6m.

Its biggest loss – and one of only two in the past 26 years – was of £109.6m in 2003. TMG reported a pre-tax loss of £15.7m in 2008 and a profit of just £0.9m in 2018.

The big loss in 2003 was a one-off blip related to the writing off of a £145m loan to former parent company Hollinger International. Without the write-off pre-tax income that year was £35m.

The Telegraph revealed on Wednesday that Sir David has died after a short illness and Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised him and his brother for having “rescued a great newspaper”.

Telegraph Media Group’s 2019 accounts, published by Companies House this week, also show a retained profit of £5.7m up from £0.7m in 2018.

Chief executive Nick Hugh said the company still expects to show “further significant financial improvement” in the 2020 financial year.

This is despite the Covid-19 pandemic having a “significant” impact on advertising and travel commerce revenues and a temporary hit to casual newspaper sales, as these difficulties were offset by growth in digital subscriptions.

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The Telegraph had 218,688 digital subscriptions in January 2020 and 348,904 in November – growth of 60% in 11 months.

TMG avoided using any Government Covid-19 support such as the furlough scheme, with the exception of short-term liquidity benefits through the deferral of VAT and PAYE payments.

The company is focusing on meeting its goal of reaching 1m subscribers by 2023, with 10m people signed up for free with an email address.

In print, both Telegraph titles saw their highest circulation since available ABC data begins in September 2001: the daily paper with 1.05m readers and the Sunday with 849,406.

The Times and Telegraph both stopped publishing their ABC print circulation data at the start of 2020, while the Independent titles were closed in March 2016.

In December 2019 the Daily Telegraph had a print circulation of 317,817, while its sister Sunday title was on 248,288.

The Telegraph now publishes its subscription figures each month and in November revealed it had 546,668 total subscriptions across print and digital and net new subscriptions that month of 12,169.

Picture: PA Wire/Michael Stephens

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