Zee News sees improvement in profits in FY 2013 financials

MUMBAI: By the time Zee News Ltd announces its financials this time next year, it could well be sporting a new name Zee Media Corp. It could well also have merged its news broadcasting business with Essel group publication DNA as proposed by its board (see Zee News-DNA: merger on the cards?). Additionally, it could well also have news and infotainment channels in Rajasthan and Bihar/Jharkhand on air (it plans to launch them in the first half this year) adding to the roster it already runs in Zee News, Zee Business, Zee 24 Taas, Zee Punjabi, Zee News UP, Zee Tamil, Zee 24 Gantalu, and 24 Ghanta.

That could well be good news for any Zee News watcher. But what is better news is the fact that the company has achieved a turnaround of sorts by reporting a profit in Q4-2013 of Rs 6.87 crore. That's despite a drop in ad and overall revenues in the quarter. Subscription revenues have, however, been buoyant in the period.

Let us look at the Q4-2013 results as against corresponding Q4-2012

Revenues for Q4-2013 stand at Rs 79.06 crore, a dip of 8.43 per cent from last Q4- 2012's Rs 86.34 crore. Of this, subscription revenues have increased to Rs 22.2 crore as against last quarter's reported Rs 20.8 crore. Ad revenues have declined to Rs 52.2 crore from Rs 56.3 crore.

Operating costs have significantly dropped to Rs 14.15 crore as against last corresponding quarter's Rs 21.39 crore. However the overall expenses have surged to Rs 78.05 crore, a rise of over 9.6 per cent from Rs 71.02 crore of the last corresponding quarter especially with its employee benefit expenses rising to Rs 23.2 crore (a rise of 22 per cent annually).

EBITDA for the quarter was disappointing at Rs 4.68 crore as against Rs 18.4 crore reported in the last corresponding period, a dive of over 74 per cent.

PAT for the quarter (Q4-2013) at Rs 6.87 crore is a massive surge of 300 per cent from a reported loss of Rs 3.95 crore in the last corresponding quarter- Q4-2012..

Let us look at the consolidated annual FY-2013 financials vs FY-2012

While total revenues have slipped to Rs 303.81 crore in FY-2013 as against FY-2012's Rs 307.22 crore, subscription revenues for the full year have surged by over 13.5 per cent to Rs 84.27 crore as opposed to last year's Rs 74.27 crore. Subscription revenues contributed to 27.7 per cent of the total revenues indicating stronger viewer demand for the channels, while ad revenues standing at Rs 202 crore contributed a majority to the total revenue stream.

Expenses have risen 5 per cent to Rs 278.23 crore from last year's Rs 265 crore, with its employee benefit expenses at Rs 87.7 crore increasing by over 17.4 per cent. EBITDA for the full year is reported at Rs 37.54 crore a drop of over 29.6 per cent from last year's 53.35 crore.

Net profit for FY-2013 has ballooned 109 per cent to Rs 24.17 crore as against FY-2012's Rs 11.55 crore. The major reason for this surge is the pouring in of funds through sources apart from its core operations including the Rs 4.8 crore dividends it received from its subsidiary Zee Akash News Pvt. Ltd. Its interest cost has narrowed to Rs 8.79 crore as against last year's reported Rs 10.66 crore. Also the taxation costs have reduced by 3 per cent over the year.

Its online property has been doing well and gaining traction. Even its microsite for the India Vs Australia series generated close to 2.9 million page views while its Union budget site knocked up 1.3 million page views.

Says Zee News managing director Punit Goenka," Our subscription revenues have shown a double digit increase and have partially compensated for the revenue constraints from a tepid advertising response in the backdrop of a muted period of growth. Out constant endeavour to bring innovative, quality and unbiased content to the viewer will remain the cornerstone of our programming. We aspire to be the one-stop destination for news in the country by building seamless synergy among the group's TV, print and digital platforms. Our company is redefining itself in tune with the changing times, laying emphasis on the digital medium and addressing broader viewer tastes."

Adds Zee News CEO Alok Agrawal," The Zee bouquet of news channels reached the highest number of people across the country touching over a 100 million viewers the last quarter of the fiscal. The network also had the highest relative share in the same period. It is a testimony to the fact that our viewer oriented and innovative programming has shown results. Our differentiated offering to business news viewers has resulted in Zee Business being a leader in five out of 13 weeks of the quarter. Also we are seeing a significant swing of viewers from English business news to Hindi business news. In the last quarter we expanded our footprint by establishing our presence in burgeoning central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh with the launch of news and infotainment channel-Zee Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh."

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