Mirror doubles its forecast of MIN benefits to pounds 10m

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The Independent Online
MIRROR Group is doubling its projection for the likely first-year benefits of its recent acquisition of MIN, the regional newspaper and exhibitions group.

Announcing full-year profits before tax and exceptional items up 12 per cent to pounds 92m, David Montgomery, chief executive, said that MIN had given Mirror Group a broader media portfolio and enabled the company to maximise its opportunities for growth.

Plans fully to integrate the MIN regional newspaper operation with Mirror Group's core national newspaper business were presented as the centre piece of Mirror's strategy for improved performance and growth this year. Other groups that have combined national and regional titles have invariably run them as separate businesses.

The acquisition was working out better than anticipated, Mr Montgomery said. Mirror Group's estimate of the likely benefits this year in terms of operating costs and synergies had been doubled from the level announced at the time of the acquisition of pounds 5m to pounds 10m.

Mr Montgomery blamed the underperformance of the company's share price over the last year on the perception that "we are wholly reliant on our famous national newspaper titles and therefore boxed into a corner.

"Well, we are boxing our way out with our diversification into regional titles, our TV interests, sports division and exhibitions business." Mr Montgomery projected that by 1999 national newspapers would account for only 50 per cent of group revenue against 75 per cent in 1996.

Mr Montgomery described recent rival newspaper attacks on Mirror Group as "a feature of our industry".

"In the end you do what's right and the performance will speak for itself. Shareholders will judge us on results, not what's in the press".

Mirror Group declined to elaborate on negotiations over the future of the company's half share in The Independent and Independent on Sunday. In the City it is widely believed the stake is about to be sold to Dr Tony O'Reilly's Independent Newspapers of Ireland, which already owns the other half.

Analysts believe that accounting adjustments and Mirror's ongoing contract to print and service The Independent titles could allow the company to unwind its involvement with a relatively limited write-off of not more than pounds 10m.

Mirror Group said it was interested in making bolt-on acquisitions to boost its growth, particularly in its magazines and exhibitions business.

Mirror Group's shares yesterday closed up 7p at 186p.