Profits up 20% at O'Reilly-led APN


APN, the Australasian media group 41 per cent owned by Independent News & Media, has reported a 20 per cent rise in profits after tax and minority interests to 42.4 million Australian dollars (€27.05 million) in 1999. Chairman Mr Liam Healy said trading was strong in the current year across all divisions and the group expected to deliver its eighth consecutive year of profit growth.

APN chief executive Mr Cameron O'Reilly, who is stepping down in July to return to Europe, said the results reflected strong growth in operating margins in each of the group's four divisions.

Each division - regional newspapers, specialist publishing, broadcasting and outdoor advertising - recorded double-digit profit growth, with outdoor advertising, the main income generator, reporting operating profits up 51 per cent.

Shareholders are to get a 25 per cent rise in their final dividend to eight cents per share, bringing the total dividend for the year to 12.6 cents per share, a rise of 20 per cent.

APN was looking for suitable acquisitions for its digital operations and was interested in expanding its successful outdoor advertising formula into new Asian markets, Mr O'Reilly said. Improving its Australian broadcasting ratings would provide profit growth opportunities for the group, he forecast.

In the past year, the company had managed to increase its share of regional advertising markets in Australia despite sluggish ratings, he explained.

Despite the ratings, profits from Australian broadcasting were up 11 per cent while operating profits from the New Zealand radio network were 50 per cent ahead.

In the regional newspapers division, an improvement in circulation volumes and a recovery in advertising in the second half, with a focus on cost control, meant an 11 per cent increase in operating profits.