Regional Independent Media appears to have found an answer to the economic downturn, with an announcement of increased operating profits for 2001.
Operating profit for the company as a whole increased by eight per cent to £44.1m and turnover by 3.5 per cent to 175.3m.
The group publishes the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Sheffield Star, Lancashire Evening Post and Blackpool Gazette, as well as a portfolio of more than 100 other newspapers and magazines.
Almost all the paid-for weekly newspapers recorded circulation increases during the year, and the most notable improvements among the daily publications were rises at the Yorkshire Post and Sheffield Star.
Chairman Lord Fowler said: “The uncertainty following the terrorist outrage deepened the decline in national advertising, which had been evident in other branches of the media before September 11th, and accelerated an erratic trend in recruitment advertising, which is an important category for all regional newspapers.
“The first half of the year was adversely impacted by the Foot and Mouth epidemic in the areas in which our newspapers operate but the events of September 11th made trading for the closing part of the year even more challenging.
“Management was well-placed to cope with the challenge, having already put in place measures to reduce costs in anticipation of a less helpful economy in 2002.
“As a result, RIM did not have to downgrade profit expectations, as many other media companies were compelled to do. In fact, profits in the core newspaper business grew more rapidly in the second half of the year than the first.”
Chief executive Chris Oakley said: “Our performance has again exceeded our investors’ expectations, with profits in our newspaper business growing more rapidly in the second half of the year than the first. An encouraging start to 2002 has justified our confidence in the prospects for this year.
“The year has started encouragingly but, should a downturn continue, then the best-managed groups will again find ways to produce good results for their investors. RIM will be one of those groups.”
Internet activities remain on course to reach break-even by the end of 2002 after further revenue growth in 2001 of 58 per cent to £2.2m and more than doubling of annual users to 8.3m.
During the year the group also acquired further weekly interests in Scotland and boosted its business magazine portfolio.
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