Earnings: Mail Online Revenue Up 15 Percent As DMGT Slides

The detail is a mixed bag for Daily Mail (LSE: DMGT) & General Trust as it swung to a £239 million pre-tax loss, for the half-year ending in March, from a £23 million profit a year ago.

Associated Northcliffe Digital: The main online unit, which recently appointed BBC controller Richard Titus as CEO, swung to a £1.6 million operating loss from a £2.2 million operating profit in the previous period – thanks partly to fewer ad sales but mainly to a marketing campaign for recruitment site Jobsite, which the company says has worked. Teletext’s operating loss held steady at £3 million despite revenues rising four percent to £18 million after ThisIsTravel was turned in to an ecommerce site – Teletext reckons it will be profitable later this year.

Nationals (Associated): Online newspapers’ revenue (mostly from Mail Online but also Standard.co.uk, Metro.co.uk, This is Money and TravelMail) increased 15 percent to £5 million after the company said it made “significant (online) investment for the first time” only in the last 12 months. Overall, operating profit is down 59 percent to £18 million, on 10 percent worse revenue of £455 million, with circulations stable but advertising income down 16 percent – within ads, the April-and-May decline is far less than the prior quarter, suggesting the worst may be over.

Regionals (Northliffe): Online revenue was flat, with job classifieds down 33 percent but others up 66 percent (ie. with unemployment rising, was it the right time to spend on marketing Jobsite?). ThisIs network traffic rose 42 percent from last year to 4.2 million in March. Overall, operating profit slumped 91 percent to £3.2 million on 27 percent worse revenue of £142 million, as advertising sales collapsed 31 percent to £103 million, with all classified segments turning except personal notices turning down and circulation falling six percent to 35 million. In common with peers, ads are 36 percent below last year. Five hundred jobs were axed in the period.

Once again, DMGT’s salvation is its B2B businesses – the various units, which supply such things as property and geospatial information, now make up 79 percent of DMGT’s operating profit after what it called “unprecedented advertising conditions” in the B2C market. The group is now targeting annual savings of £150 million and says it will be freed from the Evening Standard’s losses next time around.

Some odd lines from the earnings: “We cannot predict with certainty that we will enjoy continued success in our recruitment and retention of high quality management and creative talent.” “Swine flue … could affect the group’s ability to produce and deliver its products, reduce the demand for them, or affect our cost base.”