HT Media FY 21 results – revenue declines 42%, losses controlled

Total expenses drop to Rs 1,434 crore from Rs 2,221 crore

The Hindustan Times

The consolidated results of the HT Media group with interests in print with English and Hindi daily newspapers Hindustan Times and Hindustan, and the Monday to Saturday financial paper Mint and radio businesses Fever, Nasha, and Radio were released on 19 June 2021. The results for the financial year 2020-21 reveal revenue, including other items, has come down to Rs 1,331 crore compared to Rs 2,310 crore in the financial year 2019-21, a decline of 42%.

The company narrowed its net loss after taxes and share of loss in joint ventures by 81% to Rs 64.65 crore from a loss of Rs 344.52 crore in the previous financial year. The comprehensive loss, including other income and losses for FY 20-21, was Rs 60.16 crore, an improvement of 82%, compared to the loss of Rs 339.94 crore in FY 2019-20. Thus, although revenues declined steeply, the expenditure and losses have been minimized considerably.

HT Media group’s expenditure declined to Rs 1,434 crore in FY 2020-21 compared to Rs 2,221 crore in the previous financial year – a decline of 35.43%. Raw Materials and changes in inventory expenses fell 54% to Rs 261 crore from Rs 564 crore, which is significant because it reflects the savings on newsprint and other consumables. The decline in the cost of raw materials by 54% (despite replenishing the raw material taken from the previous year’s inventory) should directly correlate with the number of broadsheet newspaper pages produced by the group in the year.

Employee cost came down by 20% to Rs 329 crore from Rs 412 crore in the financial year, including some trimming of personnel and other allowances not applicable in the lockdowns. Other expenses declined by 32% to Rs 651 crore from Rs 963 crore.

Fall in both ad and circulation revenues

The company posted an operating loss of Rs 6 crore in its print business compared to the operating profit of Rs 251 crore in the previous year. While operating revenue fell 47% to Rs 956 crore from Rs 1,790 crore, ad revenue declined 48% to Rs 717 crore. Circulation revenue was down 33% to Rs 180 crore.

For the English print dailies comprising Hindustan Times and Mint the financial year’s ad and circulation revenues declined by 56% and 76% to Rs 349 crore and Rs 15 crore, respectively. The Hindi daily Hindustan‘s ad and circulation revenues fell in the just past financial year to Rs 368 crore (down 37%) and Rs 165 crore (down 19%), respectively.

In its radio business, the company reported an operating loss of Rs 61 crore in FY2020-21, compared to an operating profit of Rs 14 crore in the previous financial year. In this segment, operating revenue declined 63% to Rs 74 crore. The company noted that the pandemic more adversely impacted radio ad revenues than print.

Partial recovery in the last two quarters

In the last two-quarters of FY2020-21, HT Media showed some recovery and net profit of Rs 19 crore in each quarter. In Q4, revenue was up by 2% over the same quarter of the previous year and EBITDA increased by 20% at Rs 70 crore.

Hope on quick decline of the second wave

Chairperson and editorial director of HT Media and Hindustan Media Ventures commented on the results, “Advertising revenue in our print and radio businesses and circulation revenue continue to improve. The Shine business has recorded healthy topline growth during the quarter. For the full year, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we posted a positive EBITDA driven by better revenue performance in the second half of the year and cost efficiencies.

“As the financial year was coming to a close, the Indian economy was positioned favorably and seemed to be at the cusp of a strong recovery. Since then, though, the situation has altered substantially, with a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections and mortalities. While I expect the impact of the second wave to affect our business performance in the first quarter of FY 2021-22, my hope is that the recent drop in infections, the end of lockdowns, and increased momentum in the vaccination program will gradually induce an economic recovery. We remain focused in our efforts to provide credible and engaging news, information and entertainment products to our audience despite the tough environment.”

Digital monetization – no information

Of course, there is no comment on the increased web traffic on the company’s media digital platforms and its success or lack of monetization. HT Media’s financial daily The Mint is trying hard with its digital engagement and attempts at digital subscription. Still, it is not clear that its content or digital marketing is gaining any traction.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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