Media Sector: Paper profits rise at Trinity and Mirror

TRINITY AND Mirror Group, the UK media companies which agreed a merger last week, announced healthy half-year profits yesterday.

Mirror Group, whose titles include the Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People saw its first-half profits soar 67 per cent while Trinity, the UK's biggest regional newspaper publisher, reported an 18 per cent rise in its profits for the same period. Both companies said their results had been boosted by gains in readership and advertising revenues.

Last week, the two groups jointly announced that they would merge in a pounds 1.5bn deal that will create the UK's biggest newspaper publisher by weekly circulation.

As a condition of the deal, the Government has said Trinity must sell off its flagship title The Belfast Telegraph and three other Northern Irish titles in the interests of competition. Mirror Group's Northern Irish publications include the Derry Journal.

A spokesman for Trinity said yesterday: "We have received a number of expressions of interest from various parties with regard to the acquisition of our Northern Ireland business.

"We are also satisfied that the divestment of this business can be achieved efficiently and on favourable terms."

Mirror Group's first-half profits from operations to 4 July rose to pounds 40m from pounds 24m for the same period last year and turnover was up 5 per cent at pounds 360m. Mirror chairman Victor Blank said: "The first-half of 1999 has seen a continued improvement in the group. Profits are significantly ahead, borrowings have been substantially reduced and the rejuvenation of the Mirror is a demonstrable success."

Trinity's pre-tax profits for the six months to 27 June were pounds 42.5m, compared with pounds 36.2m for the same period last year. But turnover fell slightly to pounds 168m from pounds 174m.

A spokesman for the company said this 3.6 per cent reduction was due to the sale of its US operations in 1998. Underlying turnover, excluding the US, increased by 3.8 per cent to pounds 168m and net income rose to pounds 29.4m from pounds 24.9m.

Trinity said its earnings per share were up 17.9 per cent to 21.2p and set an interim dividend of 4.8p.