Losses narrow on surge in advertising revenue on the island Vigorous growth in circulation and advertising revenue at Next Media's Taiwan publishing operations helped pull the group out of the red last year, with its flagship broadsheet Taiwan Apple Daily now the third-largest newspaper on the island. Losses at the Taiwan Apple Daily, launched in May 2003, narrowed to $203.4 million from $573.8 million a year ago as advertisers chased the paper's burgeoning readership base. For the six months to December, the paper achieved an average circulation of more than 500,000 copies, an increase of 23.8 per cent over 2003. '[For the current fiscal year], the key driver [for Next Media] will still come from Taiwan,' Deutsche Bank analyst Anne Ling wrote in a recent report. 'We expect the [Taiwan business] to break even by the end of this year on a monthly basis, on higher advertising prices and lower operating costs.' Taiwan Next Magazine also saw circulation revenue and advertising income increase 4.7 per cent and 39.8 per cent, respectively. The magazine operation recorded a profit of $45.4 million, up 377.9 per cent from a year ago, as average weekly circulation grew about 30 per cent to more than 140,000 copies. 'Taiwan Next Magazine will grow further in terms of both market share and profitability,' Next Magazine Group executive director Stephen Ting said. The rapid containment of losses in Taiwan enabled Next Media to post net earnings of $104.25 million for the year to March from a loss of $89.9 million in the previous year. An analyst said Next Media booked a $137 million impairment charge last year, reflecting depreciation of certain publishing rights. Excluding such non-cash charges, Next Media would have achieved net profit of $241 million, exceeding most analysts' projections. Performance at the Hong Kong mainstay Apple Daily, the No2 Chinese-language paper in the city, was less than impressive last year. Advertising revenue fell to about $738.5 million, although circulation numbers rose to 343,302 from 339,989 in the previous year. Circulation revenue reached $456.7 million. Shares in Next Media closed unchanged at $3.30 yesterday.