Ming Pao says free dailies not cause of profit fall

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 December, 2006, 12:00am

Ming Pao Enterprise, the publisher of Chinese language quality daily Ming Pao Daily News, said its Hong Kong newspaper operations had not been affected by strong competition from free dailies as circulation rose for the six months ended September.

In contrast, Next Media shares tumbled 3.27 per cent to a 52-week low of HK$2.96 yesterday on concern that Next's Apple Daily will continue to fare badly in competition from free rivals for readers and advertising.

Ming Pao's net profit fell 7 per cent to HK$15.09 million in the company's first half to September 30 from HK$16.3 million a year earlier as revenue jumped 11 per cent to HK$735 million. The company declared an unchanged interim dividend of 3 HK cents.

Free newspapers such as Metro Publishing Hong Kong's Metro Daily, Sing Tao's Headline Daily and property agent Centaline Group's am 730 have grabbed more than 10 per cent of Hong Kong's newspaper advertising market. Even so, Ming Pao's advertising revenue recorded a small growth in the period.

'We don't see any setback from the free dailies,' chief executive Francis Tiong said.

Mr Tiong said he was optimistic on next year's advertising market as more property projects would be launched, which would bring in more promotion material to the newspaper.

Ming Pao's magazine operation, One Media, recorded a HK$3.4 million loss in the reporting period due to restructuring of US-based culture title Rolling Stone Chinese edition which became less attractive to advertisers after the mainland government ordered the magazine to keep a low profile following its launch last March.