July 4, 2018 / 11:16 AM / 14 days ago

Pretax profit halves at Britain's Telegraph newspaper

LONDON, July 4 (Reuters) - The publisher of Britain’s Daily Telegraph said its pretax profit nearly halved to 13.7 million pounds ($18.1 million) in 2017 as it invested in journalism, technology and marketing to grow its digital subscribers.

Chief Executive Nick Hugh has set out a 10-million-pound plan centred on increasing coverage in areas including technology, with a long-term ambition to expand its registered customer base to 10 million. It said on Wednesday it had passed the 2.5 million mark.

Hugh, a former executive at internet company Yahoo, took over as chief executive from Murdoch MacLennan, who was in the role from 2004 to 2017.

There has been persistent speculation that the newspaper’s owners, the 83-year-old businessmen brothers David and Frederick Barclay, want to sell the titles, and the results published on Wednesday gave more insight into the business than previously.

In 2016, a spokesman for the brothers said there were no plans to sell the group, or any part of it.

The Telegraph’s new strategy, the latest in a series of digital initiatives at the group, comes as Britain’s newspaper industry faces unrelenting pressure on print circulation and advertising.

Telegraph Media Group, which publishes the Daily and Sunday Telegraph broadsheets, said print advertising and circulation revenue fell 9 percent year-on-year.

The publisher of the rival Daily Mail saw its circulation revenue fall 6 percent while print advertising revenue was down 3 percent in the six months to end-March, more than offsetting growth in its MailOnline business.

And Reach, the owner of the Daily Mirror tabloid, said last month that print revenue for the six months to July 1, excluding its Daily Express and Daily Star acquisitions, was expected to fall by 10 percent.

At the Telegraph, the falls in circulation and print advertising were in part offset by a 5 percent rise in revenue from new sources, including digital subscriptions and travel commerce, resulting in total revenue falling 6 percent to 285.7 million pounds.

The company said it expected revenue to stabilise in 2018/2019, with profit to follow.

“2018 is a turning point for our business; in January, we set out our vision to reach 3 million registered customers by the end of 2018 and we have already passed 2.5 million,” Hugh said on Wednesday. ($1 = 0.7577 pounds) (Reporting by Paul Sandle. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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