Morning business news - March 13Thursday 13 March 2014 10.57
Independent News & Media has reported operating profits of €32.7m for the 2013 financial year. Revenue was down over 6% to just over €322m, while its net debt reduced to €95.3m after a massive restructuring operation. The group reports continuing growth in online readership where advertising revenue was up.
Vincent Crowley, group chief executive of Independent News and Media, said that during the year the company reduced its debts by €327m after major restructuring, which is now complete. Measures included the selling off of its South African operations, the restructuring of its pension scheme and a capital raising. The company now has debts of about €95m, the CEO stated. He said the company is now engaged in a further "cost efficiency and revenue enhancing initiative" for the year called "Project Quantum", which will look at all areas of the business. He said that while the company will be looking for efficiencies and changes in the business on the one hand, it will also be investing in the digital side of its operations.
Mr Crowley said the company is continuing to look for efficiencies in its "subbing" operations at its newspapers, but said it was very conscious of maintaining the quality of its journalistic output, which he described as a key aspect of its business. INM had deferred from installing a "blunt" paywall on its news website, but Mr Crowley said it was looking at other ways of monitising its content. To this end it launched a pay-for iPad app at the end of last year and will roll out some pay-for apps later this year. He also said there were other ways to generate digital revenues from INM's website, including the launch of new advertising formats.
While he would not call a forecast for the year, Mr Crowley said that the decline in print advertising revenues had slowed significantly from 14.6% in the first half of last year to only 2.8% in the year to date this year. Within that, certain elements are improving, including property and recruitment advertising. He said this reflected improvements in the Irish economy overall.
Mr Crowley recently announced his intention to step down as CEO and said that the last few years has been very "satisfying" with some significant achievements and changes at INM. "Hopefully the company is in good shape, its balance sheet in is good shape, it has a very manageable level of borrowings, trading is beginning to improve, so probably it is a good time for a change," he stated.
MORNING BRIEFS - After months of disappointing jobs data and fears of a slowdown, the Australian economy added over 47,000 jobs in February, three times the amount that had been expected. It will undoubtedly give rise to hopes that the sluggishness in the economy might pass. The unemployment rate, however, remained at 6% as more workers said they were looking for jobs. Analysts believe the economy may have been given a boost by the central bank's decision to keep interest rates low to stoke up consumer demand.
*** Ex-Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre has been ordered to pay $825,000 after a jury found him liable for defrauding investors in the sub-prime mortgage market which collapsed during the financial crisis. He was also ordered to hand back his $175,000. The payout fell short of the £1.15m penalty that the regulators were looking for.
It is one of the few cases in which an individual has been held personally responsible for wrongdoing linked to the crisis.