Chenoweth named Yellow chair

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 16:04 20/12/2013

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Former APN boss Brett Chenoweth has been appointed chairman of Yellow, which is undergoing a huge transition from printed phonebooks to digital directories.

The company yesterday reported a $15 million profit for the year to June 30, turning around last year's $78m loss.

It announced this morning Chenoweth would take over from Andrew Day, who had been in the role for three years.
Chenoweth has experience helping print media companies adapt to the digital world.

He headed up the publicly listed APN News and Media group until February this year, when he resigned after a stoush with major shareholders over the company's debt.

Yellow has its own debt woes, having gone bust three years ago after being overloaded by private equity owners.

It is now controlled by a consortium of banks and lenders, and has allocated most of its cash surplus to debt repayment.

In recent years, Yellow has had to slash more than $2 billion off the value of its goodwill, brand and customer relationships.

In June it cut 35 jobs and announced a major overhaul of its business model, splitting its print and digital teams to focus on more innovative online services.

Yellow's trading profit before impairments slipped 13 per cent to $56m this year, but impairments more than halved to $41m.

Chief executive Chris Armistead said the drop in trading profit was in line with expectations.

"Our print is on par with the rest of the world in terms of its decline, but the good news for us is we are moving in the right direction on the digital side of things."

Digital revenues reached $46m, from total revenue of $180m.

That puts Yellow halfway toward its goal of earning 50 per cent of its revenue from digital channels within the next 12 to 18 months.

Armistead said the company was not quite on track to do so, but had deliberately set an ambitious target.

The company's "incubation unit", introduced earlier in the year, had been successful with a long list of projects in the pipeline, he said.

"We're introducing new products, rapidly and frequently."

Those included mobile apps for the Yellow and White pages, which have been downloaded more than 200,000 times.
The company is also focused on maintaining its partnership with search giant Google, as the biggest New Zealand reseller of its AdWords marketing service.

Despite the print industry upheaval, Armistead emphasised his confidence in Yellow's future.

The company was earning $15m of revenue from products that didn't exist two years ago, and had more than 22,000 digital customers, he said.

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