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HT Media radio and digital biz grow in Q1, print stays muted

MUMBAI: HT Media Ltd, the publisher of leading dailies ‘Hindustan Times’ and ‘Mint’, suffered a setback during the first quarter ended 30 June 2014.

The company reported 31 per cent drop in consolidated net profit to Rs 32.70 crore (Rs 327 million) with print being the spoiltsport while FM radio’s performance remained strong.

Total revenue edged up 3 per cent from the earlier year to Rs 585.90 crore (Rs 5.85 billion). HT Media’s total expenses during the quarter under review stood at Rs 511.76 crore (Rs 5.11 billion) versus Rs 484.81 crore (Rs 4.84 bn) posted in the same quarter a year ago.

Print business revenue grew just 3 per cent to Rs 421.4 crore (Rs 4.21 billion) in the fiscal first quarter as against Rs 409.5 crore (Rs 4.09 billion) reported in the corresponding period last year.

Owing to higher news print prices and employee costs, the company had to remain content with small growth in operating profit (EBITDA) of just 4 per cent to Rs 101.4 crore (Rs 1.01 billion).

The company claims that healthy growth in advertising yields and net realisation across all dailies helped it to weather a challenging quarter for print media.

Costs of raw material rose 8 per cent to Rs 185.7 crore (Rs 1.86 billion) due to the steady increase in newsprint price. Employee costs hardened 13 per cent to Rs 125.2 crore (Rs 1.25 billion), preventing the company from achieving better returns on the operating level.

Radio (Fever FM) revenue grew 12 per cent to Rs 24 crore (Rs 240 million) and operating profit (EBITDA) increased 79 per cent to Rs 9.3 crore (Rs 93 million) during period under review. Due to robust growth in revenues and EBITDA, the division generated EBITDA margin of 39 per cent in the first quarter ended June compared to 24 per cent a year ago.

Digital business clocked in strong revenue growth. The segment collected revenues of Rs 23.7 crore (Rs 237 million), up 39 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal, driven by strong performance from Shine.com and HT Mobile.

HT Media’s digital businesses include the job portal Shine.com, HT Mobile and HTCampus.com.

Revenue from HT Mobile, which offers value-added services, digital content distribution and digital marketing on mobile, rose 54 per cent, while the company’s job portal Shine.com recorded 41 per cent growth in revenue.

Operating loss from digital declined from Rs 17.04 crore (Rs 170.4 million) to Rs 12.19 crore (Rs 121.9 million).

“Our diversification strategy continues to work well and digital businesses continue to gain traction and our radio business continues to outperform,” said HT Media Shobhana Bhartia chairperson and editorial director.

HT Media publishes the English daily Hindustan Times and the business daily Mint, among other publications.

HT Media’s Q1FY15 performance is not comparable with its performance in the corresponding quarter of the previous year as it sold its entire 51 per cent stake in the joint venture, HT Burda Media, to its partner Burda Druck GmbH on 30 September last year.

Shares of HT Media closed Friday’s session at Rs 113.70 apiece, down 5.56 per cent from its previous close on the BSE.