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Denis O'Brien's Communicorp radio empire lost €3.5m last year

The company owns many of Ireland’s biggest radio stations, including Newstalk and Today FM.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

DENIS O’BRIEN’S COMMUNICORP radio group lost just under €3.5 million last year, although its turnover rose substantially as conditions in the Irish market improved.

Communicorp, which is almost wholly owned by billionaire businessman Denis O’Brien, operates 21 radio stations across Europe.

This includes many of Ireland’s largest commercial broadcasters, including Newstalk, Today FM, 98FM and SPIN 1038.

Newly-filed accounts for the company show that it had revenues of €85.6 million in the 12 months to the end of 2015, up on the €66.7 million taken in the year before.

The company’s operating costs also rose roughly in line with this, increasing from just over €64 million to €81 million.

Communicorp made an operating profit of €1.9 million, down marginally on the €2.3 million reported in 2014, however several other expenses, including the cost of financing its borrowings and an income tax charge, dragged it into the red.

Overall the firm made a €3.45 million loss during the year, up slightly on the €3.24 million it lost in 2014.

Growth

The company’s directors report said that trading conditions in the Republic of Ireland “continued to improve in 2015 translating into growth in turnover of 10%”.

“Turnover in our European business increased by 40% due to the inclusion of a full 12 months of trading of our UK business coupled with revenue growth of 11% in the group’s remaining assets in Bulgaria,” it said.

“Direct and operating expenses increased by €14.5 million, due mainly to the inclusion of the acquired assets in the UK and the investment in marketing and programming to grow audiences across our other stations.”

Legal challenge against Dail committee Communicorp owner Denis O'Brien Source: PA Wire/PA Images

It added that the group “has sufficient financial resources available to be able to continue to invest further in future growth and has continued to do so”.

Newstalk

Communicorp claimed it is the largest commercial radio company in Ireland and Bulgaria, and the fourth largest in the UK.

The company employed 541 people during the year, up on the 461 on 2014, which saw staff costs rise from €23.6 million to €30.9 million.

It was recently revealed that Independent News and Media (INM), the media group behind the Irish Independent, considered making a bid for Communicorp’s Newstalk station.

The move led to a row between INM chief executive Robert Pitt and the company’s chairman Leslie Buckley over the price tag of a potential acquisition. Buckley is a long time associate of O’Brien, who holds a 29.9% stake in INM.

The Irish Times reported that the dispute between Pitt and Buckley centred on what was a fair price for the radio station.

Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on Fora.ie

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