In a trading update issued yesterday morning (2 May) ahead of its 2019 AGM, the publisher said its revenue increase for the period from 31 December 2018 to 28 April 2019 “reflected the benefit of the inclusion of [the acquisition of Northern & Shell’s assets] for four months in the current period versus two months in the comparative period”.
On a like-for-like basis, which excludes the Northern & Shell assets, group revenue in the period fell by 6.4%, which was an improvement on the 7.8% like-for-like fall in the first four months of 2018.
Within like-for-like revenue, print fell by 7.9% and digital grew by 8.4%. The company said there are a series of digital initiatives underway, which are expected to further accelerate this growth.
The market consensus range for Reach’s adjusted pre-tax profit for the 52 weeks ended 29 December 2019 is £140.6m to £145.1m.
The board said it “anticipates its performance for the year to be in line with market expectations” and that the company remains on track to deliver synergy savings of at least £20m per annum by 2020.
A loan taken out to help with the acquisition of the Northern & Shell assets was reduced from £60m at Reach’s year-end to £39.7m following early repayment of £20.3m due in December 2019. The company’s net debt now stands at £22.2m, with cash balances of £17.5m.
“I am pleased with the solid start to the year and the positive improvement in revenue trends. Our early term loan repayment demonstrates the continued success of [the acquisition of Northern & Shell’s publishing assets] and the strong cash generation of the group,” said Reach chief executive Simon Fox.
“We also continue to make good strategic progress, most importantly with a range of digital projects to drive both page views and revenue, the effects of which we expect to see in the second half of the year.”
Reach’s sales in the year to 30 December 2018 increased by 16.2% to £723.9m while its adjusted operating profit rose by 16.8% to £145.6m.
The company’s share price rose by around 2% in early trading yesterday morning to 78.16p and stood at 78.6p at the time of writing.