Monday 23 November 2020 8:56 am

Daily Mail publisher lifts dividend despite Covid-19 profit hit

The publishing group behind the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday today said it will hike its full-year dividend, despite seeing its profit slashed in half due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The figures

Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) posted revenue of £1.2bn in the year to the end of September, down 14 per cent on last year. 

Pre-tax profit slumped 50 per cent to £72m.

Earnings per share dropped by a third to 26.1p.

DMGT lifted its dividend by one per cent to 24.1p.

Read more: Meghan Markle wins court bid to delay Mail on Sunday privacy trial

Why it’s interesting

The figures highlight the stark impact of coronavirus on the media sector, with publishers battling declining footfall and a sharp drop in advertising revenue.

DMGT said it delivered underlying growth in subscription and digital advertising, but this was more than offset by the decrease in events, print advertising, circulation and transactions, all of which fell dramatically as a result of the pandemic.

The group’s consumer media division, which includes the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Mail Online, as well as Metro and the i, saw its revenue decline 10 per cent over the year.

Its business-to-business unit, which operates titles in the insurance, education and property sectors, fell 18 per cent.

But the hardest hit section was events in exhibitions, where operating income was slashed 81 per cent as the Covid-19 outbreak led to widespread cancellations.

DMGT said it had taken a number of measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis, including cutting discretional spend and reducing headcount.

In August the group cut as many as 100 jobs in its publishing arm and shut down the Mail on Sunday’s Event magazine.

The Mail on Sunday is currently in a court battle with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex over alleged privacy breaches.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, DMGT said it had made good progress on its strategy of slimming down its portfolio of businesses.

The group last year sold off energy data firm Genscape and property data unit Buildfax to US group Verisk.

Read more: Daily Mail owner raises profit outlook following spike in advertising revenue

Meanwhile, DMGT completed its £50m acquisition of the i newspaper and recently upped its stake in online car dealership Cazoo. The firm said its 20 per cent was now worth more than £400m — a return of over three times on its investment.

The publishing giant said its decision to lift its full-year dividend reflected its “long-term perspective and confidence in the future”.

DMGT shares rose more than three per cent on the back of the announcement.

The company said it would not provide formal guidance while the duration and severity of the pandemic remained unclear.

It said its B2B divisions were well-positioned to deliver continued revenue growth, but the outlook for its consumer unit remained difficult to predict, while events and exhibitions were likely to suffer.

What DMGT said

“Our experience through Covid-19 has demonstrated the benefits of the transformation we have implemented over the last four years. The pandemic has brought significant disruption and change to our markets but the strategic and financial actions we have taken have ensured that we coped well and remained on the front foot,” said chief executive Paul Zwillenberg.

“I am pleased with DMGT’s performance in a highly challenging environment and am immensely proud of the way that everyone at DMGT has responded. We have an embedded performance management culture with a ROI mindset and the Group is resilient, adaptable and future-focused. We will, as always, retain our long-term perspective and our confidence in the future is reflected by the board’s recommendation to increase the dividend to 24.1 pence per share.”