Desmond's profits tumble

Richard Desmond, the high-profile owner of Channel 5 and the Daily Express, suffered a precipitous £32m fall in pre-tax profits in 2009 as he bore the cost of his newspaper price war.

Richard Desmond: newspaper price war hit profits
Richard Desmond: newspaper price war hit profits

Desmond’s overall holding company, RCD1, which houses his TV and print interests, reported a pre-tax profit of £8.9m, down from £41.6m in 2008, in the year ending December 2009.

Revenue at the group was down from £483m to £421m over the year.

The biggest hit on profits of Desmond’s newspaper empire – which includes the Star and Express titles – was down to his price war against his tabloid rivals.

Desmond has been engaged in a war for readers against The Sun and the Daily Mirror and, in July, dropped the cover price of the Daily Star from 20p to 10p. It returned to a 20p cover price this week.

The media mogul’s money-off voucher schemes across the Daily and Sunday Express have also hit the company’s bottom line, according to the report.

The cost of the promotions totalled £52.2m last year.

Across Desmond’s pay TV assets – which include adult channel Television X – turnover and operating profits fell below 2008, a fact that the company accorded to the difficult economic climate.

In July, Desmond upped his interest in the TV market when he paid £103.5m to acquire Channel 5 from broadcasting giant RTL. He has subsequently pledged significant investment in the channel.

Desmond’s magazine portfolio, which includes celebrity title OK! and Star magazine, is set for a potential fillip in 2010, with further international editions of OK!, according to the report.

The title’s US edition has been subject to press reports that it is losing hundreds of thousands of pounds each week.

Its company accounts state: "Outside the UK, a significant improvement was made in the financial performance of the American title"

The financials also disclose that during the period, Desmond paid insurance premiums of £13m to a subsidiary, Northern & Shell Insurance Limited.

He also paid £12m to a subsidiary company, Express Newspapers, as part of an incentive arrangement.

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