Publisher ends year with 6m pounds flourish

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DESPITE warning at the interim stage that the outlook for the second half was gloomy, Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers, the publisher, printer and retailer, pushed profits up by 50 per cent last year to pounds 6m.

Much of the advance was a result of lower costs related to rationalisation and to lower exceptional costs compared with the previous year. Tight cost control meant the group's underlying profits still rose 13 per cent to pounds 6.5m, on revenues up 7 per cent to almost pounds 103m.

In the year ended March, the company spent pounds 537,000 on rationalisation, compared with pounds 1.7m the year before. Most of the amount related to redundancies at its publishing and printing businesses.

Publishing revenues rose 5 per cent to pounds 48.2m, and group advertising revenue was up 2 per cent. Advertising proceeds concealed a significant geographical split, however, with revenues in the recession-hit South falling 3 per cent while the North in contrast was buoyant, with revenues rising by 10 per cent. Newspaper sales revenues were 1 per cent higher.

Portsmouth & Sunderland prints a number of national newspapers on contract, including the Independent at its Portsmouth plant, and the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday in Sunderland. The company is to lose the Mail contracts when they expire in autumn 1994.

Revenue from contract printing fell by 1 per cent to pounds 14.2m, but retailing revenues were strong, up 12 per cent at pounds 42m. Profits at the group's One Stop Community Stores rose 36 per cent to pounds 1.3m, despite competition from supermarkets opening on Sundays.

The final dividend is 6.62p making a total of 9.46p (8.6p). The shares closed 7p higher at 675p.