Profits return for free paper publisher Metro

Profits return for free paper publisher Metro
Metro International CEO Per Mikael Jensen
Swedish publisher Metro International has returned to profitability, reporting a third quarter net profit of just over €1 million ($1.4 million) on Monday.

The result marks a significant improvement from the third quarter last year, in which the company lost €8.6 million. In 2009, the company lost a total of €21.6 million.

Metro posted net sales of €45.9 million for the quarter, up about 8.0 percent up from a year earlier, with especially strong sales in Sweden.

Other areas of growth were Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Chile.

“We have seen a good performance in many of our operations on the back of growing advertising markets,” CEO Per Mikael Jensen said in a statement.

The company said the global advertising market, which suffered a severe downturn along with the worldwide economic crisis, had started gradually recovering at the end of 2009 and that the outlook for the ad market in 2010 was positive and Jensen remained bullish on the company’s prospects for 2010.

“It’s quite plausible that Metro will return a profit for 2010, both in Sweden and at the group level,” he told Sveriges Radio (SR).

Results for Metro’s Swedish editions, which saw year-on-year sales growth of 19 percent in the third quarter, were strengthened by a boost in advertising revenues related to the September 19th elections.

“We received extra advertising from the political parties in connection with the election,” he told SR.

After a turbulent 2009, in which the company sold of operations in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and the United States and relocated its headquarters from London to Stockholm, it appears as if Metro may turned a corner.

“I am excited to see markets returning to growth,” Jensen noted in a statement, adding that Metro was recently found to be the largest Pan-European media among young affluent metropolitans, according to the latest Synovate European Media.

Looking ahead, Metro plans to continue expansion efforts in Latin America, Russia, and Asia and to boost investments in online and other brand extensions.

The company also aims to achieve an earnings before interest and taxes margin of

15 percent by 2012.

Along with its quarterly results, Metro said Monday its Chilean subsidiary Publimetro has acquired the remaining 65 percent of SubTV, which broadcasts news and entertainment in the Santiago subway and train system.

The company is also planning to move its tax home from Luxemburg to Sweden. According to Jensen, the move will make it easier for investors to follow the company and that the impact on Metro’s tax bill would be minimal.

At midday Monday, Metro’s shares were up 5.0 percent to about 1.26 krona on a Stockholm Stock Exchange up 0.3 percent.

Founded in Sweden in 1995, Metro now publishes free newspapers in 120 cities in 19 countries with an estimated daily readership of 17 million people.

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