Independent News & Media has reported its pre-tax profit was down 19.5% for the first six months of the year to €14.9m when compared with the same period in 2016.

The company said this was mainly due to continued challenges in revenue, which was 8.4% lower at €148.1m.

Distribution revenue was 9% lower and the group recorded a decline in total advertising revenue of 7.8%.

Ad revenue in its printed publications was down 10.9% but that was partially offset by digital advertising revenue growth of 6.3%.

Circulation revenues at the company, in which businessman Denis O'Brien is the largest shareholder, were 7.5% lower.

Operating costs were hit by the level of recent awards in libel cases, particularly those relating to historic Sunday World cases.

This, coupled with costs associated with the Independent Review and meeting the requirements of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, impacted operating costs by around.€2.5m during the first six months of 2017.

The review arose from an internal dispute which, it is understood, prompted the company CEO to make a whistleblower disclosure.

However, overall pre-distribution operating costs - excluding the aforementioned libel and legal costs - fell by €6.7m, or 7.2%, due to cost saving plans.

INM said that although the Group has seen strong growth in its CarsIreland.ie operation, digital revenues have grown at a lower rate than previously envisaged.

Growth has primarily come from programme advertising and INM's classified businesses, as digital advertising yield is still impacted by growth in mobile traffic.

The annual general meeting of INM takes place today against backdrop of significant boardroom tensions.

At the end of June INM had net assets worth €80.1m, which was up by €42.8m on the same time last year.

Commenting on the results, INM Group Chief Executive Robert Pitt said: "The continued challenging trading conditions from the decline in circulation and publishing advertising have been magnified by the impact of a very punitive defamation regime and legal costs.

"Whilst digital revenues have grown, the growth is at a lower rate than previously envisaged.

"Despite this, the Group still operates a strong underlying business with profit before tax of €14.9 million and strong cash generation."