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London Evening Standard profits double in 2013

The London Evening Standard has more than doubled its profits in the year to September 2013, to around £2.5 million, while the embattled Independent slashed its losses by 50% in the same period, according to sources.

London Evening Standard: profits doubled to around £2.5 million in the year to September 2013

London Evening Standard: profits doubled to around £2.5 million in the year to September 2013

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The 187-year-old free London newspaper owned by Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev's Independent Print is believed to be filing a trading profit in the region of £2.5 million for its last financial year.

Advertising and sponsorship revenues at the Evening Standard have generated around £56 million during the period, justifying the decision four years ago to drop its cover price in favour of an advertising-led model.

During the period, the Evening Standard's distribution was in the region of 700,000 copies in London, reaching more than 1.6 million people according to National Readership Survey figures. Since the start of this week, the Standard's distribution increased towards 900,000.

Before the paper went free in October 2009, it was running at an expected annual loss of £30m. After its first full year as a free proposition, the Standard posted a loss of £16.9m. In the second year, from October 2010 to September 2011, losses had been reduced to £7m. In October 2012, Media Week broke the news that the London Evening Standard had turned its first profit in the year to September 2012.

The robust financial performance of the Standard in 2013 comes despite the newspaper enjoying significant advertising lift the previous year around the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games.

Some analysts had questioned whether Lebedev's Evening Standard could stay in the black after the Olympics, which had introduced significant new advertising spend to the London-centric title. Advertising in the wider press market is believed to have fallen by at least 10% last year, although this was partially offset in many groups by digital gains. 

A series of new partnerships with brands, including the Evening Standard's Get Reading initiative with Nook (Barnes & Noble), a City Breaks partnership with British Airways and a Wimbledon tie-up with Evian, have helped supplement traditional ad revenues.

The strong financial performance of the news brand edited by Sarah Sands will be welcome news at Independent Print group.

Indy halves losses, but speculation mounts

Stablemate The Independent is believed to have halved its financial losses from £17 million in 2012 to less than £9 million in the year to September 2013. It follows a sustained efficiency drive that has seen the news brand merge many back-end roles and functionality with its sibling Evening Standard.

Increasingly, editorial roles are being shared across the Independent Print group as well, and the teams now sit together on the same floor, having relocated for the group's local TV channel, London Live, which launches on 31 March.

However, speculation has mounted this week that the Lebedevs have asked the founder of The Independent, Andreas Whittam-Smith, to seek a buyer for The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and the i.

It follows Whittam-Smith being appointed as chairman of Independent Print in November.

A senior source has confirmed that he has been tasked with seeking additional investment for The Independent, but there is frustration at how this has played out in rival press.

The embattled Independent had a significant overhaul of its business last year, with large cuts in printing and production costs. In the summer, Amol Rajan was appointed editor of The Independent, Lisa Markwell became editor of The Independent on Sunday and Oly Duff was named editor of the i.

One Independent Print board member said: "Where is the news here? In all honesty, we've been trying to attract additional investment for a long time now. Obviously if someone were to make a compelling, attractive offer to buy the Independent, as with any of our brands, I'm sure it would be looked at."

The Independent's daily circulation has slipped below 70,000 copies following a 20p price rise in July. Only 50,000 copies are sold at the full cover price of £1.40, but the figure has been stable since the summer of 2013. Similarly, the Independent on Sunday sells 105,000 copies, around half at full price.

The Independent brand unveiled a redesign in November 2013, together with a new content formula, a black vertical masthead, pared-back use of colour and classic serif fonts.

All financial figures for 2013 are still subject to auditing by Deloitte and will not be published until June 2014.

This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk

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