Future’s preliminary results saw digital revenues rise 38 per cent – the highest rate of growth in recent years – with 59 per cent of advertising revenue now digital.
The results cover the year ended September 30th for Future – owner of BikeRadar, Cyclingnews, Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike, Procycling, TriRadar and Triathlon Plus.
Across its diverse portfolio, covering cycling, tech and more, digital reach grew by 14 per cent to 58 million unique users (UUs) a month. Future now has 14 websites that attract more than one million UUs a month. Future also won three UK awards for Digital Publisher of the Year in 2013.
Normalised pre-tax profit hit £1.9m – the year before saw a £2.7m loss. Net debt more than halved from £14.1m to £6.9m following the sale of ‘non-core print activities’.
More than 40% of the Group’s revenues were generated outside the UK in the last year, so it’s perhaps no surprise Future has a keen eye on global opportunities, not least in the US, repurposing UK-produced content for the American market, with further potential in the cycling market.
Mark Wood, Future’s Chief Executive, said: "Our digital revenue growth accelerated, with a 38% increase year-on-year, and we passed an important transition point with more than half our advertising revenues now digital. We have made real progress in reshaping the Future business, diversifying our digital revenues, making our US operations profitable and building global digital brands.
"We have an on-going programme to reduce the cost base and improve margins. During the year we transformed our balance sheet, paying down term debt from the proceeds of non-core asset disposals and extending our credit facility until 2017. This leaves us well positioned to execute on our growth strategy.
"Overall, these are good results after difficult trading conditions earlier in the year, thanks to stronger trading across all areas in the fourth quarter. Looking forward, we see the encouraging Q4 trends continuing with forward advertising bookings up year-on-year, and revenue momentum across all sectors."
If you’re after more quotage, you’re in luck. Here’s a big statement from chairman Peter Allen: "We are pleased with the results, which show the business gathering momentum in the second half and ending the year with every sector performing well. We believe the advances in digital revenues mark an important turning point for the business, with advertising revenues now two thirds digital. The strategy agreed by the Board over the past two years to diversify revenues and reduce dependence on print is clearly delivering the anticipated results. Digital and Diversified revenues − including revenues from digital activities, FutureFolio, Future Plus and events − are now one third of the business and we are on a trajectory to maintain this momentum.
"It has been particularly encouraging to see an effective focus on increasing monetisation of our digital traffic and to follow the development of our digital agency activity in the US and the UK as a substantial new business.
"We have placed great emphasis on managing our operating margins, and continue to re-engineer our cost base as part of that focus. We are pleased with progress in this area and the efforts undertaken to reduce costs in the UK and streamline the business organisation by removing some layers of management.
The improvement in performance and the encouraging trends as we entered the 2013-14 financial year were seen by the Board as justifying a resumption of dividend payments, which were suspended in 2011. We will therefore pay a dividend of 0.2p per share for all shareholders on the register as at 14 February 2014. This decision reflects confidence in the business and the prospects for the period ahead.
We are delighted to welcome Zillah Byng-Maddick as Chief Financial Officer. She brings with her invaluable experience of managing the print-to-digital transition at Trader Media, publisher of Auto Trader. We thank her predecessor, Graham Harding, for his contribution as CFO and many years of distinguished service to Future and we wish him well."