Festival season fails to cheer HT Media results

Festival spending cushioned the revenue decline

HT Media, one of India’s top English-language news publishers, continued to report falling revenue and profits, even as the expected boost from a delayed festival season failed to materialize.

The company reported a 2.5% year-on-year decline in its revenue for the Oct-Dec quarter, while operating profit (EBITDA) plunged 57%.

Revenue came in at Rs 665 cr, down 17 cr on year, while EBITDA was at Rs 85 cr, down 113 cr from last year.

EBITDA margin shrunk to 13% from 29% last year.

Net profit fell to Rs 43 cr from Rs 137 cr.

The declines, however, were slightly lower than what was seen in the preceding, Jul-Sep quarter, when revenue had fallen 6% and the company had swung to a loss of Rs 19 cr at the EBITDA level.

Still, the company was expected to do well this quarter as the comparison period for last year did not have the positive impact of having a festival season.

In 2017, the festival season had largely fallen in Jul-Sep quarter, while it fell in the Oct-Dec quarter in 2018.

Commenting on Jul-Sep results, Chairperson Shobhana Bhartia had pointed out that the festive season has shifted to the third quarter in 2018.

Commenting on the third quarter results, she said the season failed to bring much cheer by way of growth in ad spends.

“The relatively weak festive season in 2018 hurt print advertising revenues,” she said.

However, the shift in the festival season did help cushion the decline in ad revenue.

While print ad revenue had fallen by 9% in the Jul-Sep quarter and 7% in the Mar-Jun quarter, the fall moderated to 5% in the Oct-Dec period, coming in at Rs 420 cr.

The fall was steeper, at 7%, in Hindi print and at 4% in English.

“With recently announced government initiatives, the upcoming national elections, and an improvement in corporate performance, advertising revenues should see an improvement, and, combined with higher circulation revenue and lower newsprint cost, boost our financial performance in coming quarters,” Bhartia added.