HT Media reported total revenue for Q3 FY23 of Rs 488 crores, a 2% decrease from the same period last year. EBITDA was Rs 28 crores, a 74% decrease year on year, with negative PBT at Rs 30 crores and a 6% negative PBT margin.
During the earnings call of Q3FY23, Group CFO Piyush Gupta shared that total revenue is down y-o-y basis, primarily on account of a relatively muted macro and festive season. “To expand, sitting in the base is the political revenue which came in last year consequent to elections in UP. And also, there were eight days short in this festive season because Diwali timing was altered between the second and third quarters.” Net cash as on 31st December was at Rs 854 crores.
For English print business, ad revenue was at Rs 160 crores as against Rs 176 crores last year, showcasing a decline of 9% and versus previous quarter it is a growth of 9% with Q2 being Rs 147 crores. Circulation revenue at Rs 15 crores vs Rs 7 crores which is a gain of 122% and sequentially a gain of 18%. In key highlights, he shared that Retail, Auto, BFSI grew while Real Estate, FMCG and Education remained muted. Circulation revenue improved on the back of better realization per copy and higher number of copies.
Moving onto Hindi, he said 16% y-o-y decline with ad revenue coming in at Rs 123 crores and sequentially it is a growth of 1% where ad revenue nearly remained flat. On circulation revenue, again it is almost flat at Rs 45 crores both sequentially and on a y-o-y basis. In key highlights, Auto, Healthcare and Durables grew while Retail, Education and FMCG remained muted.
According to Gupta, revenues for radio business grew handsomely at 21% to Rs 42 crores from Rs 34 crores in the same period last year. And on a sequential basis, it is a growth of 27%. Operating EBITDA came at Rs 7 crores, which is a y-o-y growth of 50% and operating EBITDA margin came in at 17%. Meanwhile, digital business revenue was at Rs 28 crores as against Rs 36 crores last year, a decline of 23% and margins were negative with Rs 4 crores operating EBITDA.
When asked about the fall in newsprint prices and rationalization in expenses in the coming quarters if HT media can come back to profitability, Gupta said, “Yes, for sure”.
He added that newsprint prices in a normal situation would have fallen much more sharply than they are falling right now given this whole geopolitical situation between Russia and Ukraine. "Because if you go back to the commodity cycle of 2017-18, what went up in two quarters came down in two quarters also. Right now, it is coming down a little gradually. We are very sure of the direction that the newsprint prices will only soften from here on. But will the gradient be as sharp as it was when it was going up? We don’t think so. We are seeing it continuously come down and in the next two quarters we are very sure that it will be another 10-20% down from here on. Of course, there is some inventory we always carry in the business and those things are adjusted on a weighted average basis," Gupta explained.
Speaking about the rise in expenses, Gupta said: “One part is the investment in HT Labs that we are doing, which is giving rise to some increased spends we are seeing here. Secondly with the Covid restrictions opening up and on-ground events happening, there are certain events that we are conducting, giving rise to certain expenses. But they have a corresponding revenue which is also sitting up there.”