Fairfax has posted a 299% profit leap for the first half of the year bringing in $386m, driven largely by the sale of its stake in New Zealand firm Trade Me, giving the company “one of the strongest balance sheets in the sector”.
However, profits excluding these sales after tax were down $52m from the same period last year, at $83m, with revenue also falling 7.1% to $1.096bn.
The figures are the first indication of how the group is travelling since it started a painful cost-cutting program last year, and come ahead of an anticipated reveal tomorrow morning of its new compact metro mastheads.
Net debt has also been massively slashed by $717m to $197m, following pressure from major shareholders including Gina Rinehart.
CEO Greg Hywood said: “For some time we have considered it prudent to manage Fairfax Media on the basis that a significant cyclical upswing was unlikely in the near term.
“The actions we have taken to strengthen our balance sheet and transform our business have been essential, and our rogress to date is reflected in today’s result.
“While the economic environment continues to be stressed and structural change presents ongoing challenges, our overall performance is in line with expectations. Our transformation is ahead of schedule.”
He said the Metro print business ”continues to be profitable” with circulation revenue “up strongly”, stressing the development of the digital business as a key development, although regional and New Zealand groups remain challenged.
In terms of the Fairfax of the Future program it has already delivered $40m in savings, with $169m slated by the end of the financial year.
The outlook is expected to remain consistent, although the report highlights considerable volatility in the advertising markets, with second half revenues tracking around 10% lower so far.