28/08/2009

Belfast 'Tele' Reports News Of Losses

Two of Northern Ireland best-known newspapers are making significant losses.

They are being forced to 'report' their own bad news as revenue has fallen at both the world's oldest English language title, the Belfast News Letter and Belfast Telegraph.

The 'Tele' is owned by Independent News & Media which has suffered a loss with advertising revenue not expected to recover this year.

It made a pre-tax loss of €48.5m (£42.7m) for the first six months of 2009, compared with a €96.6m profit in the first half of 2008.

The company warned that its full-year earnings would be at the bottom end of current expectations.

Advertising revenue was down 19.6% in the period and no recovery is expected in the second half of the year.

"The group's current forecast presumes a continuation of poor advertising markets to year-end, with no material pick-up from the trend experienced in the first half," its statement said.

The Dublin-based company, whose titles include the Belfast Telegraph, was supposed to have repaid a €200m bond in May and has been rolling it over since then.

It is also due to repay €50m of bank debt in September.

As a result of the losses, the company said it would not be paying an interim dividend.

The News Letter publisher, Johnston Press, has also seen a decline in advertising in the recession.

Its advertising revenues shrank 32.7% in the first half of the year, with recruitment and property advertising particularly hard hit.

The firm, which also owns the weekly Times series that covers the whole of Northern Ireland, is also the publisher of the famous Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post.

It has cut another 439 jobs to take its workforce down to 5,969, having already laid off 15% of its staff last year.

It reported a six-month pre-tax loss of £94.2m, compared with a loss of £53.7m in the same period a year ago.

Meanwhile, UTV Media in Belfast has also 'posted' a sharp drop in pre-tax profits for the first six months of the year, blaming the ongoing slump in advertising revenues.

The company, which owns the Northern Ireland ITV franchise and more than 20 radio stations in the UK and Ireland, said pre-tax profits for the period were down 30% to £7.8m and group operating profits dropped 29% to £11m.

Revenue is down 10% to £54.5m compared with the first half of 2008.

UTV's television division saw operating profits fall 61% from £4.7m to £1.8m with TV ad revenue down 23% in the first six months to £14m.

(BMcC/GK)

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