Group to invest £23m in Internet

 

The Trinity Mirror newspaper group has made little noise about the Internet so far and it is expected to seize the moment when it reports results this week to spread out its online wares.

Trinity Mirror, the result of last year's merger between Trinity Plc and Mirror Group Plc, is expected to headline a £30 million sterling (£23.4 million) Internet investment plan on Friday to take its medley of national and regional newspapers online.

Analysts are also looking for an update on the integration of Trinity and Mirror, the bid for publisher News Communications & Media Plc, the sale of the Belfast Telegraph and latest circulation and advertising figures.

Forecasts for 1999 pre-tax profit range between £105 and £112 million for a consensus £109 million sterling, based on Mirror's contribution since the merger was completed last September. On a pro-forma basis - including Mirror for the full year - forecasts range from £160 to £165.4 million for a consensus £163 million, compared with £134.3 million in the previous year.

"We want to see that when the end user finally moves to the Net, Trinity Mirror will be there to provide a service," said Ms Lorna Tilbian, analyst at WestLB Panmure, which is recommending the stock as a "buy".

Citing the US experience of regional information hubs driving Internet traffic, analysts say Trinity Mirror has a lot to gain from the Net, being Britain's largest metropolitan regional newspaper operator.

Trinity Mirror, which spent around £10 million on new media opportunities in 1999, is expected to flag plans to establish IC24 as a major portal with regional portals for local communities and a number of partnership deals.

Online gambling may also feature, with a chunkier strategy awaited for its sporting-life.com venture and possible developments for its Racing Post title. Plans to push forward classified advertising on the Fish4 Net venture are also expected.