Historical transactions also flagged

Telegraph results hit by exceptional charge

Subscription income includes 117,586 subscribers to the printed newspaper

Subscriptions and underlying operating profits are up at Telegraph Media Group but its results have been impacted by a near-£280m exceptional hit due to loans owed by Barclay family businesses that are unlikely to be repaid.

In a trading statement for the financial year ended 31 December 2023, TMG said its audited results would show sales up 5.42% to £268m, while operating profit prior to exceptionals jumped by 35.2% to £54.2m.

However, the loss for the year was £244.6m after a whopping £277.6m provision was made, “against amounts due from TMG’s parent undertaking, with the ongoing corporate transaction casting doubt over the recoverability of this balance”.

A convoluted on-off sales process for TMG and sister magazine The Spectator has been underway for the past year, since Lloyds Banking Group took control of parent company B.UK Ltd last summer because of a long-running dispute with the Barclay family over unpaid loans.

TMG also flagged further potential future liabilities as the result of historic transactions, and stated: “In addition, as part of the receivership and sale processes in the year, a detailed review of historic transactions was undertaken in respect of amounts paid to, and received from, group companies and related parties.

“The review identified potential irregularities in the recording of such transactions and although there have been no changes to the assets and liabilities recorded, there is a potential risk of future possible repayment claims against the company and group in respect of such transactions.”

More positively, the group broke through the one million subscriptions barrier. Subs at TMG and the Chelsea Magazine Company, acquired in March 2023, were up by just under 302,000 to 1,035,710.

The subs figure includes 117,586 subscribers to the printed newspaper.

TMG also said its transformation programme had enabled substantial staff cost increases in line with inflation, “alongside a reduction in print production costs”.

CEO Anna Jones, who took over in January, said: “2023 reinforced the strength and resilience of Telegraph Media Group as a business. The substantial growth in our operating profit pre-exceptional items last year was driven by significant advances in both digital advertising and digital subscription revenue.

“Against a backdrop of uncertainty surrounding its future ownership, the business has continued to excel and be recognised for its successes, winning numerous awards and commendations.

“As we look ahead we will continue to invest in expanding our audiences and evolving our products, specifically across audio and the app, to best serve our dedicated subscriber community and secure continued growth through 2024 and beyond.”

Regarding the ongoing sale process, in its own report on the results the Daily Telegraph said that RedBird IMI adviser Raine was gathering updated financial information ahead of a second auction, and potential bidders had been told to expect an Information Memorandum later this month.