Fairfax beats profit forecast of pounds 45m

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JOHN FAIRFAX, the Australian newspaper publisher, comfortably beat the profits forecast it made in April when it rejoined the stock market after four turbulent years as a private company.

Fairfax, which is 15 per cent owned by Britain's The Telegraph group, lifted restated earnings before tax and interest from Adollars 117.3m (pounds 43.3m) to Adollars 128.9m ( pounds 47.6m) for the year to 30 June. The forecast was Adollars 123m (pounds 45.5m).

As a new entity - subsequent to its restructuring in December - Fairfax made net profits of Adollars 15.4m, after tax of Adollars 11.5m, interest of Adollars 34.7m and depreciation of Adollars 11.5m.

The group was hit by declines in advertising revenues from some of its biggest titles, which include the Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review. Circulations of the Age and Herald climbed by 1.8 and 1.2 per cent respectively.

As expected, there was no dividend.

Tony Hughes, finance director of The Telegraph group, said the results were very encouraging. The Telegraph has options to acquire 30 million more Fairfax shares in addition to its holding of 62 million. It is lobbying the Australian government to be allowed to lift its stake above 15 per cent.