Ad boost helps Yell ring up £36m profit

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The Independent Online

Yell Group, the publisher of the Yellow Pages telephone directories, swung into profit for the first quarter of its financial year, as more advertisers came on board.

Yell Group, the publisher of the Yellow Pages telephone directories, swung into profit for the first quarter of its financial year, as more advertisers came on board.

The company, which helped to kick-start the resurgence of the IPO market last year with a £1.9bn listing on the London Stock Exchange, said yesterday that profits before tax were £35.6m, compared with a loss of £80.5m in the first quarter of 2003. The period last year contained nearly £50m of costs associated with the flotation.

Group turnover was 7 per cent higher at £280.9m, with turnover in the UK up 4 per cent to £150m. Turnover in its printed directories rose 3 per cent, including the impact of a 4 per cent reduction in advertising rates. The Office of Fair Trading ruled in 2001 that rates should fall at 6 per cent below retail price inflation every year for four years.

Yell's online site in the UK is seeing strong growth, with turnover up 41 per cent to £7.9m. The number of advertisers on the site rose 35.8 per cent to 110,000 and the number of advertisers in its printed directories, accounting for those that drop out through the year, rose 1.5 per cent to 138,000.

John Condron, the chief executive, said: "We are growing our net advertising base in the UK. In other areas, such as in Europe, the number of advertisers is going backwards."

The US continues to see much stronger growth, despite weakness of the dollar. The region accounts for about 46 per cent revenues and rose 11 per cent over the quarter to £130m. The number of advertisers increased by 18 per cent and the average turnover per advertiser was up 4.5 per cent to $1,902.

Shares in Yell yesterday rose nearly 1 per cent, closing at 332p. The stock is more than 17 per cent above its IPO price of 285p and the company has a market capitalisation of £2.3bn.

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