Australian media group Fairfax reports six percent drop in full year net profit

Australian media group John Fairfax Holdings Ltd. said Monday its earnings for the year to June 30 dropped six percent to 259.7 million Australian dollars (US$196 million; Ђ159.26 million) from A$276 million a year earlier.

However the profit drop was blamed on lower one-off items for the year compared to the year earlier and Fairfax said both sales and underlying profit rose.

Sales at Fairfax, which publishes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age in the southern city of Melbourne and business newspaper The Australian Financial Review as well as several papers in New Zealand, said sales rose to A$1.88 billion (US$1.4 billion; Ђ1.14 billion) from A$1.77 billion a year earlier.

"The challenges to our revenue base over the past year from a weak New South Wales economy and declining real estate markets in Sydney and Melbourne have been more than offset by strong results in display, employment, magazines, regional and community publishing and Fairfax Digital in Australia, and continued exceptional growth in New Zealand," outgoing Fairfax Chief Executive Fred Hilmer said.

The company's online operations, Fairfax Digital, saw revenues soar 38.2 percent to A$54.9 million (US$41.5 million; Ђ33.72 million).

Hilmer said the company remains on the watch for any opportunities created by the Australian government's proposed relaxation of media ownership laws.

"We are prepared to pursue opportunities afforded by any changes in the media ownership laws," he said.

Fairfax last week named former New Zealand rugby star David Kirk to replace Hilmer with effect from Nov. 21. AP reported.