Revenue rebounds, Indian paper costs start to fall

Feb 14, 2024 at 06:09 pm by admin

An easing in the high cost of newsprint has helped Indian publishers to better results in the final quarter of last year.

But the real improvement comes from digital – where Jagran Prakashan reported revenue was up by a quarter, year-on-year – and advertising, where increases have been more modest.

At DB Corp, non-executive director Girish Agarwal said print media’s dominance in the news landscape had been demonstrated with consistent growth in advertising.

He said Dainik Bhaskar’s brand equity “as India’s No.1 newspaper” was shown in the impressive portfolio of advertisers that continue to enforce their trust and increase advertising spending every quarter.

“Buoyancy in the Tier II and III cities continues to drive strong local economic growth in our key markets, the auto sector saw further traction with the festive season and the new launches driving further ad spends.”

Categories including education, real estate, jewellery, government, health and BFSI, continued to use print as their preferred medium, with “very good growth in this quarter”.

Most of the advertising categories that spent in print had grown in the quarter – autos by almost 47 per cent, FMCG by 20-25 per cent, real estate by 20 per cent, and jewellery by 26 per cent. Government had also shown 36 per cent growth as a result of elections. Hospitals and healthcare, and banking and finance had also both grown, while classified obituary – “a big category for us” – had fallen by almost 3-4 per cent.

On the cost front, he said, “We have been benefiting from the soft newsprint prices, and this has certainly helped us improve the gross margins.”

Newsprint prices had fallen in the past year by close to 20 per cent, and Agarwal floated the “strong possibility” of a further fall of two-to-three per cent, if the “overseas freight issue” from the Red Sea did not create a problem.

A strong balance sheet had cash and bank balances at Rs 825 crore (A$153.4 million) with zero debt. Return on capital employed (ROCE) and return on net worth (RONW) were also healthy at 24 and 18 per cent. He was also “happy to share” that the company had generated free cash flow of Rs 337 crore (A$62.6 million) in the last nine months.

One intangible, the trust factor in newspapers, has also gone up, “making us in a very happy situation”, prompting Agarwal to suggest that this might be the time for all newspaper organisations to invest in content.

“We are investing more, and I believe it's our responsibility, so our reader – our consumer – feels more delighted and the relationship with them continues.”

Jagran Prakashan reported a six per cent increase in Q3 ad revenue, with its operating revenue up 4.7 per cent to Rs 510 crore, (A94.8 million) year-on-year; digital revenue grew by a quarter.

Profit after tax of Rs 73.98 crore (A$13.75 million) was up 47.9 per cent on the same quarter, although operating revenues for the publication rose only 4.7 per cent.

Chairman Mahendra Mohan Gupta said overall consumption in urban and rural India remained muted. India’s record transformation and high level of government expenditure prompted confidence “that the whole media industry is poised to be back on the path of long term sustainable growth sooner than later”.

Standalone profits at operating and net level “grew meaningfully”, primarily as a result of moderation in newsprint prices, continued cost control and improved performance of all businesses. Gupta too, expects further decreases in newsprint prices, as well as performance improvements in core and other businesses, in coming quarters.

Pictured: Dainik Bhaskar published a 204-page edition in 2021… printed on cloth

Sections: Newsmedia industry


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