12th January 2012
Mecom Group plc
Pre-close trading update
The Board of Mecom Group plc ("Mecom" or the "Group"), a leading European consumer publishing company, issues the following trading update for the year ended 31st December 2011, in advance of its results presentation scheduled for 14th March 2012.
Full-year results and year-end net debt for the Group are expected to show some improvement on the guidance given in the 20th October 2011 Interim Management Statement.
Key trading highlights of the year were as follows:
· EBITDA in the second half of 2011, adjusted to exclude the Polish Presspublica operations disposed of during the year, was approximately €5 million lower than in the second half of 2010, resulting in a preliminary estimate of full year EBITDA of approximately €144 million (2010: €151 million).
· During the final quarter of the year, advertising revenue declines continued across the Group, reflecting continuing turbulent economic conditions and lack of consumer confidence. Compared with the same quarter in 2010, advertising revenues fell by 12 per cent, 5 per cent, 5 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Poland. Over the full year, advertising revenues fell by 9 per cent in the Netherlands, were flat in Denmark and Norway and fell by 11 per cent in Poland.
· Circulation revenue in 2011 was broadly in line with 2010. The Group continues to benefit from the relative stability afforded by having a subscriber base which accounts for more than 80 per cent of total circulation revenue, and was able to increase cover and subscription prices to offset modestly declining volumes.
· Total Group revenue remained resilient, being down 1 per cent in 2011, as declines in advertising were offset by growth in consumer sales, including Sweetdeal, and distribution revenues (including the effect of the collaboration with Telegraaf Media Groep in the Netherlands).
· Total operating costs in 2011 were lower by approximately 1 per cent for the full year, compared to 2010.
· Preliminary figures indicate that earnings per share for 2011 will be approximately 45 euro cents per share, including the benefits of reduced depreciation and finance costs.
· Closing net debt was approximately €260 million, €10 million below the €270m indicated in the 20th October 2011 Interim Management Statement. This represents a year-on-year reduction in net debt of €51 million (16 per cent), resulting in a closing net debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.8 times.
The final quarter of 2011 has further highlighted the market pressure that is being exerted on print advertising revenues. The Board expects further declines in total advertising revenue in 2012, with strong growth in digital advertising partially mitigating the pressure on print.
The Group expects circulation revenue to remain broadly flat as further price increases are implemented in 2012 to offset relatively low levels of volume decline.
The previously advised benefits of the Group's I.T. outsourcing project will be realised in 2012 and this, along with further initiatives to be outlined in the Group's strategy update on 24th January 2012, is expected to lead to further cost reductions.
Effect of disposals
On 5th December 2011, the Group announced that it had agreed to sell its 100 per cent interest in Edda Media AS ("Edda Media") to A-Pressen AS. Adjusting for the impact of the disposal of Edda Media (including the effect of the disposal on intra-group recharges), and of the disposal of Presspublica already taken into account, the Group expects preliminary EBITDA from ongoing operations for 2011 to be approximately €114 million.
The disposals of Presspublica and Edda Media have a dilutive effect on adjusted earnings per share. Discontinued operations are expected to contribute approximately 13 euro cents per share to 2011 earnings per share, with the impact of this expected to be partially offset in 2012 by a decrease in finance costs resulting from the reduction in net debt.
Cash flow and net debt
The Group expects the Edda Media disposal to complete in the first quarter of 2012, with a consequent reduction of circa €190 million in the Group's net debt. The Group's expectations on 2012 closing net debt will also be influenced by the strategic review which will be presented to investors on 24th January 2012. Further guidance will be provided then.
The Board intends to continue the dividend policy, started in 2011, of maintaining dividends at a level where they are approximately three times covered by earnings per share. For the final dividend in respect of 2011 this will be based on total earnings for 2011, including earnings related to the disposed Edda Media and Presspublica operations. Thereafter, dividend payments will be based on earnings per share from continuing operations, within the parameters indicated above.
As part of its review of the Group's capital structure, including the initiation of discussions with potential lenders regarding a refinancing of the Group's bank borrowings, the Board will consider a return of capital to shareholders from part of the proceeds of the Edda Media disposal.
Mecom Group plc 020 7925 7200
Tom Toumazis, Chief Executive Officer
Henry Davies, Group Finance Director
Pendomer 020 3603 5221
Ben Foster 07776 240 806