Australia’s Fairfax Media back in the black

SYDNEY: Australian publishing giant Fairfax Media on Wednesday posted a return to profit following a cost-cutting drive, although advertising revenue for its major newspapers weakened further.

Fairfax - which owns The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review - reported an annual net profit of Aus$83.9mil (US$65.7mil) in the year to June 30.

The turnaround followed a Aus$772.6mil loss reported over a previous 12-month period.

Although advertising revenue for Fairfax’s Australian newspapers declined 17% its lucrative property advertising Domain Group recorded a 19% jump in annual digital revenue.

”Today’s result shows Fairfax is in great shape,” chief executive Greg Hywood said.

”The strategy we commenced five years ago has successfully maximised cash flows of our publishing assets and with that built growth businesses in Domain and Stan (video on demand service).”

Shares in Fairfax rose 1.19% to Aus$1.02 in mid-day trade in Sydney Wednesday.

Fairfax like other international media organisations has suffered from declining advertising revenue and circulation, and has slashed staff levels and costs.

The conglomerate detailed plans to list Domain as a separate entity while retaining up to 60% of its shares, with a shareholder vote to take place in early November.

”Domain has created a strong platform for revenue growth -- and is well-positioned for a standalone future,” Hywood added.

The spin-off plans followed the end of a bidding war earlier this year between US private equity giant TPG Capital and US investment firm Hellman & Friedman to buy the entire firm.

Australian media’s woes have spread beyond traditional print publishers, with some commercial television networks also struggling.

Seven West Media - which owns broadcaster Channel Seven, magazines and The West Australian newspaper - on Wednesday booked a Aus$744.3mil net loss for the year to June 24, compared to Aus$184.3mil net profit in the prior period.

The Ten Network, another of the nation’s three commercial channels, was in June placed in voluntary administration after failing to secure a new finance package.- AFP

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