The owner of the Daily Mail has revealed half-year profits nearly halved as the pandemic hammered sales at its events arm and Metro newspaper title.
Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) saw statutory pre-tax profits from continuing operations plunge to £42 million in the six months to March 31, down from £77 million a year ago.
On an underlying basis, pre-tax profits fell 20% to £47 million.
The group reported a 16% slump in adjusted revenues to £580 million, with turnover crashing by 95% across its events business due to the Covid-19 crisis, while consumer media sales were 10% lower.
While it cheered a “solid” performance across MailOnline and its Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday titles, the group said the performance was hit by woes at its Metro business – a free commuter newspaper which is heavily dependent on ads.
Revenues at Metro plunged 72% over the half-year, while they were 5% lower for its Mail businesses, with declines limited by 9% growth for MailOnline.
DMGT said it was “difficult to predict” the advertising market going forward, though it said circulation sales should be resilient, helped by the recent Daily Mail price hike.
The easing of lockdown restrictions and return to public transport is also likely to boost its Metro division.
It is planning two major “physical” events in September, but is expecting trading in the division to remain “very challenging”.
Paul Zwillenberg, chief executive of DMGT, said: “From a financial and operational perspective, DMGT delivered a solid performance in the first half of the year.
“Within consumer media, there was good revenue and profit growth from MailOnline and a solid performance from the Mail print titles driving profit growth for the Mail businesses whilst, unsurprisingly, Metro and our events business continued to be impacted by the pandemic.”
The group has been striking a raft of deals in recent months, selling its education technology arm Hobsons for 410 million dollars (£291 million) in an effort to strengthen its finances during the pandemic.
But last March, it bought the renowned weekly science and technology title New Scientist magazine in a £70 million deal, while it has also been increasing its stake in online car dealer Cazoo.