Next Media, the city's largest listed publisher, is expanding its newspaper printing business to help offset the sluggish advertising performance of Apple Daily and Next Magazine. Next, controlled by Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, has secured contracts to print the Hong Kong Economic Journal and International Herald Tribune. This should make up for losing the contract for Metro Daily, the second-largest free newspaper. 'More publications are expected to join Next Media's camp in the near future, including Recruit, the free recruitment magazine,' a company source told Media Eye. 'Due to our background [Mr Lai's support for the democracy movement in Hong Kong], we shouldn't be the first priority but we are gaining market share.' Next Media has been considered unfriendly to Beijing since Mr Lai wrote an article in Next Magazine criticising the government in 1994. That makes some of Hong Kong's big media companies nervous about using its printing presses. It is understood that Metro, which awarded the printing contract to Next Media four years ago, was unhappy that the company also prints am730, one of Metro's rivals. Newly signed businesses such as Hong Kong Economic Journal had better profit margins, sources said. The broadsheet Journal and IHT were able to fill the capacity left by the tabloid-sized Metro and generate more revenue than before, they said. Next's newspaper printing business performed steadily. Excluding the printing of its titles including flagship Apple Daily, printing turnover last year was HK$111.2 million, a year-on-year increase of 12.2 per cent. Firm on growth track Next Media shares have surged 20 per cent since mid-September as investors bet that the company will benefit from economic growth in both Taiwan and Hong Kong, its two main markets. Taiwan-based brokerage KGI forecasts Next Media's net profit for the year to March next year will grow 29.6 per cent to HK$446 million. It says Taiwan's advertising market is recovering while competition from free newspapers in Hong Kong is easing. In Hong Kong, the group's best-selling title, Sudden Weekly, has increased its cover price by 20 per cent to HK$12. It is the first price increase since 2002 when the title bundled with Eat and Travel Weekly. Sudden Weekly sells 210,000 copies in the fiercely competitive gossip weekly market. Rivals including Emperor Group's Oriental Sunday and South China Media's Three Weekly are sold for HK$10 and HK$8 respectively. The increase in cover price might slow growth in circulation but should help cover rising production costs, sources said. BBC expands coverage The British Broadcasting Corp has expanded its Asia-Pacific offerings, introducing three new channels. BBC Knowledge, a documentary channel; BBC Lifestyle, which covers food, fashion and beauty; and CBeebies, a children's channel, were introduced to PCCW's Now TV subscribers last week. 'About 80 per cent of the package's programmes will be produced by the BBC while the remainder will be acquired from other broadcasters,' Christine Leo-McKerrow, the BBC Global Channel's senior vice-president, told Media Eye. The British broadcaster will also boost its regional exposure in major markets such as India, Australia, South Korea and Japan in the next few years.