The Royal Mail has reported increased half-year profits of £67 million despite revealing a further slump in the number of letters being posted.
Profit for the six months to September was up from £22 million in the same period a year ago but was entirely due to revenue from GLS European parcels and the Post Office business.
The delivery arm of the Royal Mail lost £41 million - down from £55 million a year ago - with the daily postbag falling by 6% to 59 million items, the lowest for about 20 years.
The number of employees has been cut by 5,000 in the past year, including 2,000 managers, reducing the Royal Mail's workforce to 163,000, about 50,000 less than a decade ago.
GLS made a profit of £58 million and Post Office Limited made £55 million, with the group's financial performance and cash flow showing improvements.
Chief executive Moya Greene said "painful changes" remained to be made to secure the group's future, including increased automation and more mail centre closures.
She said: "Our financial performance at the group level in the first half of our financial year, including our cash flow, shows some improvement on the same period a year ago.
"The necessary measures we implemented earlier in the year - increasing our prices and tight cost control - are a key part of our strategy to return Royal Mail to sustained financial viability. They are beginning to deliver results. But we have a great deal to do.
"We are halfway through our financial year and are operating within a difficult and challenging business environment. The economic downturn is proving to be prolonged and, like many other predominantly UK and European-based companies, our trading conditions are challenging.
"Our focus therefore remains on returning to sustained financial viability. We will continue to reduce our costs wherever possible without compromising the six-days-a-week service."
© 2011 Press Association