Profits posted at Royal Mail despite slump

ROYAL MAIL&rsquo;S profits have almost doubled, the postal service said yesterday, as all four sections of the company entered the black for the first time in two decades.<br /><br />The whole group&rsquo;s operating profit hit &pound;321m for the year to the end of March, up from &pound;162m last year, and showed its letter delivery arm and its post office unit both returning to profit.<br /><br />But the state-controlled business will still be part privatised, as business secretary Lord Mandelson insists outside funds are imperative for its survival.<br /><br />Royal Mail&rsquo;s massive pension deficit, which has more than doubled over the past year to &pound;6.8bn, is the crux of Mandelson&rsquo;s privatisation plan.<br /><br />&ldquo;Today&rsquo;s figures show that while the headline profits are in the millions, the pensions deficit is in the billions, and confirms that the Royal Mail remains in a precarious financial position,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />But he faces a backbench rebellion over the controversial move, as around 150 MPs oppose the&nbsp;plan, saying a part-sell off is ill thought through.The positive report from Royal Mail yesterday gave those who oppose the plan ammunition, demonstrating that Royal Mail is still viable.<br /><br />But the encouraging figures could also spur on the postal company&rsquo;s potential buyers, which include&nbsp;Dutch company TNT.<br /><br />The letter delivery unit made &pound;58m, compared with a loss of &pound;3m last year. The Post Office&nbsp;made a profit of &pound;41m, up from &pound;34m of losses.