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Australia's Fairfax Media nets profit after years of losses

Australian media company Fairfax posts A$224.4 million annual net profit, supported by sale of travel website Stayz in December for A$220 million.

SYDNEY: Australian media company Fairfax reported a A$224.4 million (S$260.5 million) annual net profit Thursday (Aug 14), returning to the black after three years of losses even as print advertising revenues slid further. Fairfax, which has newspaper, radio and digital interests, said it was "heartened" by the result in the 12 months to June 30, which came after a A$16.4 million loss the previous year.

"Today's result underlines the ability of Fairfax to deal with the enormous structural changes impacting upon the industry," chief executive Greg Hywood said. "We have stabilised earnings and have completely remade a legacy-based, vertically integrated newspaper business into a genuinely multi-platform media company."

The return to profit was supported by the sale of travel website Stayz in December for A$220 million. Revenue slipped by three per cent to A$1.97 billion. The firm declared a final dividend of two cents, to take the total for the year to four cents.

Like media companies worldwide, Fairfax has faced declining print advertising and circulation revenues and is in the process of a major overhaul towards a digital future, slashing hundreds of jobs. The turbulence faced by the newspaper industry was reflected in advertising revenue, with print declining by 24 per cent, although digital rose six per cent. Digital subscription revenues jumped to A$24 million, an increase of A$19.2 million from a year ago, after it launched paywalls on its newspaper sites in 2013.

Restructuring and redundancy costs of A$16.9 million weighed on the annual result, which was also offset by other impairments of A$16.8 million, mostly related to print plant closures. The latest round of job cuts saw journalists at the company's metropolitan newspapers -- The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne's The Age -- go on strike in May.

Fairfax has also been a takeover target of Australia's richest person, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, who is already a major shareholder. Rival The Australian newspaper, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, reported in July that Rinehart had approached business associates for suggestions on who could better manage Fairfax if she decided to take it over.

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