Marie Claire owner reports record profits on back of Covid reading boom

Future, the owner of magazines from Marie Claire to Metal Hammer and sites such as TechRadar and GoCompare, has reported record revenues and profits in its first half as the company continues to cash in on the pandemic-fuelled reading and online shopping boom.

Future reported a 21% increase in group revenues to £272m and more than doubled pre-tax profits to £57m in the six months to the end of March, well ahead of analyst forecasts, prompting the company to say that its full-year results will be “materially ahead” of expectations.

Future’s share price surged more than 6% on the upgrade, close to levels not seen since the first dotcom boom two decades ago, giving the London-listed group a market value of more than £3bn.

The company, which generates revenue from magazine sales, digital advertising and e-commerce by sending online readers to partner retailers, said that coronavirus lockdown restrictions provided a £5m e-commerce revenue boost as shoppers stocked up online.

“Following an exceptional e-commerce and digital advertising performance during Black Friday and Christmas, we have carried this strong trading momentum through to the end of the first half,” said Zillah Byng-Thorne, the chief executive of Future.

The company said that its media division grew revenues by 30% to £182m, driven by digital advertising, which also grew by 30%, and e-commerce income, which rose by 56% year on year. Future’s magazine publishing division, which includes titles such as Country Life, Wallpaper and Total Film, grew underlying revenues by 2% to £90m as more people turned to subscriptions.

“The digitally-centred approach meant Future was well positioned for the pandemic as it wasn’t too reliant on sales of physical magazines, which dried up amid Covid restrictions,” said Russ Mould, the investment director at the stockbroker AJ Bell. “The focus on titles which serve people’s hobbies and interests has probably been a boon, given people have been looking to distract themselves from the day-to-day realities of coronavirus.”

Future grew online users by 31% to 311m year on year and said it reaches more than a third of adults online in the US and the UK.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that these are a stonking set of results from Future, and suggest at least for now, the business is futureproof,” said Sophie Lund-Yates, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

In November, Future struck a £594m deal to buy the price comparison site GoCompare.

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