DUBLIN: The chief executive of Independent News & Media, Robert Pitt, has failed to back the re-election to the board of company chairman, Leslie Buckley at an extraordinary AGM in Dublin. In an unprecedented development for an Irish public company, Mr Pitt did not raise his hand to vote for his chairman when a resolution for his re-election was put to the shareholder meeting. However, he did raise his hand to vote for the re-election of all other directors at the meeting. Mr Pitt and Mr Buckley clashed last year over a proposal for INM to acquire Newstalk, the national radio station owned by Denis O’Brien, INM’s largest single shareholder. Mr Pitt later made a protected disclosure to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement about the row. Earlier, INM announced that its pre-tax profit fell by almost 20 per cent during the first half of 2017 compared with the same period last year. The media group’s interim results showed that its pre-tax profit declined by 19.5 per cent to €14.9 million primarily due to “continued revenue challenges”. The company said directors were not proposing a dividend for 2017.
INM said the drop in profit before tax was “somewhat mitigated” by cost saving plans put in place. Earnings per share decreased during the period by 0.2c to 1c. Total revenue at the media group was also down 8.4 per cent to €148.1 million during the period. INM said the fall was primarily driven by a decline in distribution revenues of 9 per cent and a decline in total advertising revenues of 7.8 per cent. Within total advertising, publishing advertising revenues declined by 10.9 per cent, partially offset by digital advertising revenue growth of 6.3 per cent. Circulation revenues at the company declined by 7.5 per cent.
Operating costs were negatively impacted by the level of recent awards in libel cases, particularly those relating to historic Sunday World cases. This, coupled with costs associated with the independent review into the proposed bid for Newstalk, as well as meeting the requirements of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, impacted operating costs by about €2.5 million. Pre-distribution operating costs, excluding the libel and legal costs, decreased by 7.2 per cent to €6.7 million due to cost saving plans that have been put in place throughout the group in order to mitigate the forecast revenue declines. INM said that despite “strong growth” in its CarsIreland.ie operation, digital revenues had grown at a “lower rate than previously envisaged”. “Growth has primarily come from programmatic advertising and INM’s classified businesses as digital advertising yield continues to be impacted by growth in mobile traffic and the move away from direct transactional selling,” noted the results.