Sliding profits for Daily Mail owner

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The Independent Online

The publisher of the Daily Mail newspaper reported a 23 per cent plunge in annual profits today, but said its flagship title had the second best year in its history.

Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) posted underlying profits of £201 million for the year to October 4 - down from £262 million after it was hit by the steep slump in advertising revenues amid the recession.

But its Daily Mail title bucked the wider gloom in the industry, with adjusted profits maintained at the second highest level on record for the newspaper.

This helped its Associated Newspaper national arm achieve a "very satisfactory result", according to DMGT, although revenues slid 11 per cent and earnings dropped 15 per cent.

DMGT said it saw more stable conditions in the last six months of the year, which combined with cost cutting to deliver a "sharp improvement" in UK consumer business second half profits.

The group, which also owns around 100 regional titles, has axed jobs and slashed costs across its operations, in line with similar action across an embattled UK media sector.

DMGT also sold a 75 per cent stake in its loss-making London title the Evening Standard earlier this year for a nominal sum and later shut its freesheet London Lite following the Standard's move to go free.

In another sign of the industry's woes, DMGT is closing its hard-hit Teletext news and information service in January next year - two years ahead of schedule due to the economic conditions.

DMGT shed 2,200 jobs in the year, with the bulk - around 1,100 - lost in its troubled Northcliffe Media regional newspaper division.

The group also closed three regional printing plants at Grimsby, Leicester and Bristol.

Northcliffe suffered a near-two thirds plunge in operating profits, down 65 per cent at £24 million, as the recession took its toll on UK regional titles.

But DMGT's business-to-business arm has fared better, with annual profits up by 7 per cent, also boosted by currency movements.

It added that 73 per cent of the year's annual earnings came from outside the consumer operations, up from 60 per cent the previous year.

Shares eased 2 per cent, although analysts at Numis Securities said DMGT produced a "strong set" of annual figures and raised forecasts for the year ahead.

"There are encouraging, if early-stage, signs of green shoots across the business and we are raising our 2010 forecasts by 19 per cent accordingly," they added in a note.