APN News & Media reports record interim profits

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The Independent Online

APN News & Media, the Australia and New Zealand media group, reported a 17 per cent jump in net profits for the first half of the year, after strong performances from its newspaper and radio interests.

The company also saw an improved result from its outdoor advertising business, which should continue going forward on the back of contract wins - including new business at Sydney Airport and Adelaide buses.

The Australia-listed APN is 39.7 per cent owned by Independent News & Media, the publisher of The Independent. APN's profit after tax of A$66.1m (£27.5m), for the six months to the end of June, was a record for the company. Revenues climbed 10 per cent to A$652m.

Donal Buggy, Independent News and Media's chief financial officer, said APN benefited from its presence on the fast-growing east coast of Australia and in Auckland in New Zealand. "As long as China keeps booming, Australia, as a supplier of commodities to that country, will do well. And New Zealand benefits from exports to Australia," he said.

APN said that underlying growth rates would moderate for the second half, against the strong 2004 comparison period. But the company said that early results for the rest of this year had come in as anticipated and, providing that continues, APN's goal of double-digit profit growth for 2005 as a whole will be met.

Mr Buggy said that the possible liberalising of Australia's media ownership laws could lead to deals kicking off in the sector. But he added that there was no certainty of change.

At APN's New Zealand publishing business, which includes The New Zealand Herald, first-half revenues excluding new titles rose by 9 per cent. Underlying sales at the company's Australian and New Zealand regional papers grew by 8 per cent, helped by the strength of employment advertising in particular. In radio, APN said its Australian network of stations continued to benefit from good ratings for its classic hits format in its target 25-54 demographic.