Yellow Pages and Yell.com owner in rebrand plan

 

The owner of directory services Yellow Pages and Yell.com today outlined plans to rebrand itself "hibu" as it swung to a £1.4 billion annual loss.

Yell Group said printed products, such as the Yellow Pages, will not change their identity but wants the parent company and its digital offerings such as Yell.com and eMarketplace to fall under the new moniker, pronounced "high boo".

While chief executive Mike Pocock has admitted the word means nothing, the company said hibu told a "story" and the logo's soft-shouldered edges represented the "people behind the identity".

The eMarketplace, which will be called market.hibu.com, provides small businesses with the infrastructure to sell online, without having to set up their own website.

Shares in Yell Group tumbled 21% after it revealed the pre-tax loss in the year to March 31, compared to a £66.3 million profit in the previous year. The name-change is subject to shareholder approval at its annual meeting on July 26.

The huge loss was largely a non-cash write-down on the value of its print business, with underlying earnings declining £47 million to £461 million.

Mr Pocock, who previously worked for Linksys, the home and small business networking division of communications giant Cisco, said: "In the current year, I expect to see more good progress. We will deliver material new product revenues, announce some important new strategic partnerships and deliver further improvement in our capabilities.

"As part of this transformation, I am pleased to announce a new corporate brand, reflecting our increasing focus on the digital consumer."

Having previously pledged to turn Yell into a predominantly digital business, Mr Pocock said digital revenues now accounted for 29% of total sales.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said the growth of digital business will be crucial to the success of the company.

Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary, said: "It's encouraging to see Yell increasing their customer base and revenue in their digital operations. The success of this business area will clearly be crucial to the future ability of the company and employee support will be a major factor in the success of this transition."

Elsewhere, the group said full year print and other directory revenues declined 20.7% over the prior year, reflecting fewer customers and lower spending from small businesses.

Digital directory revenues declined 11.1% as increasing competition and the economic environment hit the business, although its digital services revenues more than doubled, primarily from online searches.

The group has slashed costs by cutting staff by 700, reducing overall IT costs and through a 2.6 percentage point reduction in the rate of bad debts.

PA

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