Telegraph plans to move into electronic newspapers: Increased revenue and overseas acquisitions lift profits to pounds 60m

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The Independent Online
THE TELEGRAPH plans to experiment with electronic newspaper publishing in the very near future.

Joe Cooke, the group's managing director, said yesterday that it was likely soon to make the Weekly Telegraph, a tabloid version of the newspaper aimed at expatriates, available via the Internet system. Internet is in effect a giant bulletin board, and can be used by anyone with access to networks such as Compuserve.

Mr Cooke said newspapers needed to think hard about future delivery methods. 'It won't displace print but it will become much more widely used within a relatively short time,' he said.

The Telegraph - which has abandoned plans to expand into broadcasting - also hopes to begin issuing the Young Telegraph in disc form.

Profits at the Telegraph rose sharply last year, pleasing the City, which duly marked the shares up 7p to 587p in a steeply falling market.

Pre-tax profits in the year to the end of December were up by more than one-third to pounds 60.2m. The figure included a pounds 6.5m credit from the sale of a stake in Trinity International, without which the rise would have been 15.5 per cent.

Operating profits were up 8.1 per cent to pounds 42.9m on turnover up 7.8 per cent at pounds 255.7m, as the company benefited from increased advertising as the UK began to emerge from recession.

Conrad Black, the chairman, said the profits improvement was based on an increase in newspaper advertising revenues of more than 8 per cent, supported by a 6 per cent rise in circulation revenues.

Profits also benefited from the doubling of its stake in its Australian newspaper associate, Fairfax. The Telegraph spent pounds 74m raising its holding in Fairfax by 10 percentage points to 25 per cent.

It also spent pounds 66m on a 9.36 per cent stake in Southam, the Canadian newspaper publisher.

The purchases more than doubled group debts to pounds 104m ( pounds 40.5m), a gearing of 31 per cent. But they also increased the Telegraph's profits from associated companies - primarily Fairfax - from pounds 5.9m to pounds 12.7m. The dividend is 7.5p, making a total of 13p (11p).

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