Two years after buying Virgin Radio and re-branding it as Absolute Radio in the UK, The Times of India-controlled radio station has reported a 62 per cent rise in pre-tax loss to £4.3 million for calendar year 2009.
The station owners blamed recession and rebranding for this rise in losses and fall in overall revenues by a third under the new management. Revenue fell to £14.8 million from £22 million. In 2008, pre-tax loss was at £2.65 million.
The radio station changed hands in mid-2008, when the India-based publishing conglomerate bought it from the Richard Branson-controlled Virgin Group (Scotish Media Group) for £53.2 million without the “Virgin” brand name. The current owner, TIML, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd, the ultimate owners of The Times of India and other group publications.
The new owner, however, is bullish about the coming months, and said revenues had started to look up as September revenues were reported to be up by 20 per cent. The station said its growth in revenues came at a time when the national advertising market was down by three per cent.
Commenting on the results, Donnach O’Driscoll, CEO, said, “The heavy lifting is now behind us. We look forward to building on the strong growth shown in the most recent audience figures and we are optimistic about 2011.”
Absolute said costs were down by 22.5 per cent, or £5.6 million, to £19.1 million in 2009. Wages were reduced from £4.76 million in 2008 to £3.4 million in 2009 as a result of the number of staff falling from 105 in 2008 to 90 in 2009.
Cash used in operations was just £1.6 million, reflecting a combination of non-cash items and a strong working capital management performance.
“The past two years have seen Absolute Radio Network reposition itself as it drives towards a digital future, reporting a 33 per cent increase in digital listening and considerable progression in digital online and mobile year on year. It continues to invest consistently in premium audio content to build audiences and drive new revenue streams,” an operational note from the station said.