Circulation gains boost print performance at Reach

Jo Francis
Monday, November 29, 2021

Media group Reach has reported a “strengthening” outlook for print, with overall sales coming in ahead of expectations after a strong performance at its digital wing.

Reach: aiming to build a modern and inclusive media business
Reach: aiming to build a modern and inclusive media business

In a trading update for the period from 28 June to 21 November, the PLC said it had experienced a more normalised pattern of trading in the second half. 

“Revenue has continued to grow and was up 1.2% overall in the period, with digital up 17.2% and print declines moderating further to 3.5%,” the group stated. 

By comparison, in H1 print revenues were down 5.2%. 

“The full year outlook for print has strengthened, driven predominantly by circulation which is on an improved two-year trajectory compared to H1. This reflects a combination of market recovery, strategic investment in availability, marketing, promotions and product enhancement.”

Reach has 11 national print brands, including national newspapers and OK! and New! magazines. It also publishes dozens of local newspapers. 

Digital revenues have grown strongly, up 17.2% in the period, and Reach now has more than 8m registered customers. 

However, the group also flagged the well-documented cost pressures around energy and paper prices. 

“While transformation in 2020 enabled a more efficient and adaptable operating model, we remain vigilant regarding wider consumer confidence and inflationary pressure in the post-pandemic environment,” it noted. 

“We have begun to see an increase in the cost of print production, particularly for energy and newsprint. With the longer-term effect on the cost base still emerging, we are closely monitoring developments and will continue to prioritise efficiencies to mitigate the impact.”

Reach Printing Services has four sites across the country, following a reorganisation that saw two sites closed.  

The group has also agreed a substantial increase in its revolving credit facility with a syndicate of banks, from £65m to £120m on a four-year term, which Reach said “demonstrates growing confidence in our covenant and provides further flexibility to invest in the strategy”.

CEO Jim Mullen commented: "Strategic delivery is transforming our prospects for growth and we're progressing towards our goal of doubling digital revenue over the medium term. Registration numbers are strong, and advertisers are responding to our expanded portfolio of data-led products. Together with our efficient operating model, this is enabling us to invest further in digital content as we build a modern and inclusive media business."

Reach is yet to reach agreement with regard to the triennial review of its pension commitments.

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