Nine may be having second thoughts on making a deal with Fairfax, after the publisher swung back into negative territory in the last financial year.
Fairfax posted a net loss of $63.8 million in the 12 months to 30 June 2018, compared to a profit of $83.9 million in FY17.
The company’s revenue fell 3.1 per cent to $1.7 billion in FY18, while its expenses before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation rose 1.2 per cent to $274.2 million.
Fairfax’s metro media division – which includes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review – suffered a 6.1 per cent decline in revenue to $490.2 million during the 12-month period.
The division’s advertising revenue was down 9.6 per cent to $203.9 million, and circulation revenue was down three per cent to $220.1 million.
Fairfax’s community media division experienced an 8.8 per cent drop in revenue to $351.4 million, with ad revenue down 11 per cent to $211.3 million, and circulation revenue down 10.6 per cent to $60.1 million.
On a positive note, Fairfax’s separately listed real estate business, Domain, posted 11.5 per cent revenue growth to $357.3 million in FY18.
Domain’s digital revenue jumped 20.2 per cent to $278.9 million, but its print revenue fell 12.6 per cent to $77.1 million.
The publisher’s streaming joint venture with Nine is also kicking goals, with Stan achieving 72 per cent year-on-year subscription growth. The platform now boasts more than 1.1 million subscribers.
And let’s not forget the strong full-year results for Macquarie Media, of which Fairfax is the majority shareholder.
What is interesting to note is the tone change of Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood in his results commentary. Last year, he said the publisher was in “great shape”, but this year he’s gently lowered his praise.
“Fairfax is in good shape, and that’s the reason Fairfax shareholders have the opportunity to
benefit from a step-change in growth through the proposed combination of our company with Nine Entertainment Co.,” he said.
“We have long believed that media consolidation provided enormous potential to leverage increased scale of audiences and marketing inventory to grow our assets.
“Fairfax has consistently supported media deregulation because we saw the long-term benefits for shareholders.
“This is an exciting new phase in our development. It puts the important work we do through our journalism on an even stronger and more sustainable footing for the future.”