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Fairfax boosts profits, predicts more in FY04 Fairfax

Monday, 08-Sep-2003 5:31PM PDT
Story from AFP
Copyright 2003 by Agence France-Presse (via ClariNet)

SYDNEY, Sept 9 (AFP) - Australian newspaper publisher John Fairfax said Tuesday it had more than doubled net annual profit and predicted earnings growth in the current financial year after unveiling a significant rise in 2002/03 net profit.

John Fairfax Holdings Ltd. reported net profit of 125.5 million dollars (81. 6 million US) for the year to June, up 134 percent from the previous year's 53. 7 million dollars.

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"Barring unforseen circumstances, we expect to continue earnings growth in 2004, the scale of which will depend on the vitality of further trading through the year," Fairfax chief executive Fred Hilmer said.

Hilmer said Fairfax had achieved strong profit growth in a tough market, increasing advertising revenues while keeping costs under control and stemming losses from its internet division f2 to nine million dollars.

"This is a good result," he said.

The result will provide a welcome boost for Hilmer, who comes from a non-newspaper background and has come under pressure over falling circulations at Fairfax's masthead publications, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

Hilmer said the integration New Zealand's Independent Newspapers Ltd., now known as Fairfax New Zealand, was proceeding smoothly following the 1.09 billion dollar purchase in June and the division was set to reach earnings of NZ130 million dollars in financial 2004.

Fairfax lifted its final dividend to eight cents, up from sevven cents previously.

Hilmer said Australian trading for the first 10 weeks of fiscal 2004 was "generally steady", while it had growth stronger in New Zealand.

"In Australia, display advertising continues to grow strongly, while employment and real estate classified advertising has softened, consistent with market conditions in those sectors," Hilmer said.

Fairfax shares were down five cents 1.5 percent at 3.20 dollars in early trading.