Daily Mail's falling information revenue forecast hits shares

LONDON (Reuters) - Daily Mail and General Trust DMGOa.L warned on Thursday that underlying revenue in its information business would be lower than previously forecast and posted a fall in first half profit, sending its shares down 10 percent.

The owner of the Daily Mail newspaper reported an 11 percent fall in operating profit to 100 million pounds ($129 million) in the six months to the end of March, due to pressures in the information business and planned investment costs.

DMGT said the information division, which owns the media businesses that serve the traditionally more stable property, education and energy sectors, was expected to produce a full-year underlying revenue growth rate in the low-single digits, compared with a previous forecast of mid-single digits.

The British company reiterated its 12-month targets but said challenging market conditions facing portfolio companies Hobsons’ Admissions and Genscape’s Locus Energy are expected to persist, hurting revenue at its information business.

The information division had revenue of 259 million pounds in the first half of the year, while the group overall reported a 1 percent underlying rise in revenue to 890 million pounds.

Daily Mail cut the revenue outlook for its information unit in January, saying it was hit in the first quarter by lower activity in the UK market of its European property segment.

Property investors reined in spending after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union on concerns that the market would be hit by companies moving some jobs to the EU or taking up less space against an uncertain domestic environment.

Commodity firms are also cautious on spending as the industry recovers from a multi-year commodity price slump.

DMGT also said underlying revenue growth rate at its events business is now expected to be in the mid-single digits, but would still be in line with market expectations.

“The scaling back of top-line FY guidance for DMG information and DMG events is likely to be taken negatively and raise questions about operational performance,” Liberum analysts wrote in a note.

The brokerage has a “buy” rating on the stock.

However, Daily Mail’s rate of decline in print advertising eased slightly in the first half while online ad sales surged, helping the group to maintain targets. Print advertising fell by 8 percent, easing from a 12 percent fall in 2016.

Analysts at Panmure Gordon, who rate the stock a “hold,” said the company’s portfolio has gone from “firing on all cylinders” three years ago, to a “mixed bag” over the last 18 months, to “nearly everything’s struggling”.

Editing by Jane Merriman and Alexander Smith