“THE ‘D’ and ‘M’ in our name might stand for ‘Daily Mail’, but we’re far from that.” So said Stephen Daintith, DMGT’s finance director, as he discussed the group’s full-year results with journalists yesterday. The message, loud and clear, was that this was no longer a newspaper company, but rather a company that happens to own some newspapers (and perhaps one that would be doing much better if it didn’t).
His predecessor, Peter Williams, was slapped down when he made a similar point in 2009, shortly after the group sold the London Evening Standard to Alexander Lebedev. The group had “crossed the rubicon”, he said at the time, before his remarks were “clarified” by the firm, who said it remained “committed” to newspapers.
Williams was right, as is Daintith. Last year, 74 per cent of DMGT’s operating profit was generated from its business-to-business division, which houses interests as diverse as its stake in financial publisher and events organiser Euromoney to its risk management business, which helps firms judge the potential costs of natural catastrophes.
Still, as long as its biggest shareholder is Lord Rothermere, a man who truly loves newspapers, they will continue to form a major part of the group’s strategy.
To be fair, Associated Newspapers isn’t doing too badly, thanks to the quality and pricing power of its paid-for titles and the success of free paper the Metro.
If only someone would buy the awful regional papers, which continue to be the biggest drag on profitability. Even Rothermere wouldn’t mind seeing the back of those.