Campaign publisher Haymarket claws its way back into profit

Life looked a bit grim for Haymarket, publisher of Campaign, Management Today, Brand Republic and What Car? among many others, last year after a pre-tax loss in 2009 of £3.7m.

This was only the half of it as the company, now wholly-owned by the Heseltine family, was forced to mortgage its collection of properties around its Hammersmith HQ as the recession and the migration of ads from print to online hammered revenues.

Meanwhile the company was burdened with the high costs of the breakneck international expansion launched by company godfather Michael Heseltine after he retired from government (he was deputy PM in John Major’s Tory administration) and resumed control of the family business (son Rupert, pictured, is now chairman).

Now Haymarket has reported a pre-tax profit of £5.2m in 2010 on increased revenues of £235m (up nearly four per cent) although the UK business is still losing money (£77,000 down from a potentially terminal £5.9m). It says 40 per cent of its revenues now come from digital and conferences, although it’s safe to assume that these are at lower margins than good old print advertising.

So pretty good really and the grand Heseltine strategy of going global (Haymarket now owns businesses in the US and the Far East) seems to be paying off.

It certainly looks better placed than long-time rival Centaur which is almost wholly dependent on the UK.

But the potential flaw in the Heseltines’ strategy is that, with 100 per cent ownership, the only shareholder recourse for the company is the family’s own (admittedly well-stuffed) coffers. So a £3.7m loss in 2009m was actually quite serious, even for a company turning over £200m plus.

As for the most interesting bits of the empire for us, Campaign and Brand Republic (which includes Media Week), the outlook remains unclear. A Haymarket high-up told me nearly three years ago that he would be amazed if Campaign, the magazine that made Haymarket’s reputation in the late 1960s, would not be online only in a couple of years. Well it’s still available on paper, although not as fat with ads as it used to be.

And we wait to see if mega-marcoms website Brand Republic has profited from its decision to instal a pretty high paywall in July.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.