APN says NZ media unit encouraging

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 15:30 02/05/2013

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The chairman of New Zealand Herald owner APN News & Media has outlined "another challenging year" for its publishing businesses.

Peter Cosgrove told the company's annual meeting today that the year had been marked by weak advertising markets and structural changes.

APN - which lost a chairman, chief executive and three directors in February over capital raising plans - was "vigorously re-engineering" itself in New Zealand and Australia, he said.

The full impact of these measures would not be felt until 2014, but they would save $18 million this year and $10m next year.

In February, APN reported an annual loss of A$455.8m ($559.2m) after impairments.

Cosgrove said declines in publishing had been somewhat offset by good performances in radio and outdoor advertising.

However, there had been encouraging improvements in the New Zealand media division through an improving economy and a rejuvenation programme.

Cost savings here had more than offset the revenue declines, and ebitda (earings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) was slightly ahead, year to date.

"All newspapers worldwide continue to confront the loss of revenue to other online platforms," Cosgrove said.

"Our company faces the same challenges. Even so, our publishing assets generate significant cashflows and profits, and you have heard today of the steps that are being taken to reduce costs, stabilise profits and find new revenues."

While results from its Radio Network division in New Zealand were "somewhat disappointing", it was benefiting from a growing radio market.

APN New Zealand Media chief executive Martin Simons showed how the division's headcount had shrunk from 2068 six years ago to 1037.

Major changes since 2012 included a more compact New Zealand Herald and moving all the regional dailies to compact morning editions, with synergies in their content.

A paywall had been brought in for the Listener, and The Herald on Sunday had been relaunched.

Acknowledging the February resignations, Cosgrove said the former board members had been worried there was not enough time to explore alternatives to a capital raising.

He thanked former APN chairman Peter Hunt, chief executive Brett Chenoweth and directors John Maasland, Melinda Conrad and John Harvey for their contributions.

Reports at the time said they were worried a raising could have watered down INM's stake in the Australian company.

Shares in APN remained unchanged at 51c this afternoon.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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