APN signals 30% dive in earnings as newspaper advertising plunges

TROUBLED media group APN News & Media fears its full-year profit will be slashed by almost a third following a major weakening in newspaper advertising markets.

TROUBLED media group APN News & Media fears its full-year profit will be slashed by almost a third following a major weakening in newspaper advertising markets.

In a trading update released after the market closed on Thursday, the trans-Tasman company said publishing revenue had slumped 10 per cent since June on weaker ad markets.

While $25 million in cost cuts had helped offset some of the impact, APN's annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation amortisation (EBITDA) are forecast to fall by 28 per cent.

The group expects EBITDA for this year will fall to between $150 million and $155 million from $208.9 million last year. Net profit is expected to drop more than a third to $51 million to $54 million this year.

APN, which owns regional newspapers and radio stations across Australia and New Zealand, said its result would be hit by an $8 million charge linked to its outdoor advertising joint venture with Quadrant Private Equity. The falls in the value of APN's newspapers has also hurt its ability to deduct interest for tax purposes, causing another hit of up to $8 million.

The chief executive, Brett Chenoweth, said while the group's radio, outdoor advertising arm Adshel and online venture GrabOne had outperformed, its publishing business had felt the full force of the market downturn in Australia and New Zealand.

He said conditions in the second half had been more challenging, "with extremely short bookings and we have not seen the usual seasonal uplift in revenues".

"We are proactively managing the levers within our control including cash management, product innovation, sales transformation and cost reduction," Mr Chenoweth said.

"While these initiatives will deliver a substantial contribution, the weak advertising markets have had a negative impact on APN's publishing results in Australia and New Zealand."

The slowdown in the Queensland mining industry and drop in government advertising across the state had particularly hurt revenues at APN's Australian regional media division.

Cost cuts had not been enough to offset the declining revenues, causing the division's second-half earnings to fall below those of the first six months of this year.

In New Zealand, APN fears advertising revenues will be down 9 per cent this year, mainly because of a decline in display and job advertisements.

However improvements had been made and second-half EBITDA would be higher than the first.

Revenues from APN's radio division, which includes the Mix network, are also expected to rise 5 per cent thanks in part to better listener ratings.

APN's outdoor advertising business also continues to perform well, with EBITDA for Adshel expected to rise 25 per cent.