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Bermuda Press Holdings posts $2.9m loss

Earnings report: Bermuda Press (Holdings) Ltd, owner of The Royal Gazette, made a net loss of $2.9m for the year (File photograph)

The Covid-19 pandemic significantly impacted all business units of Bermuda Press (Holdings) Ltd, which reported a net loss of $2,963,000 for the year ended September 30, 2020, which compared to a profit of $738,000 for the prior year.

A large part of the decline was attributable to a noncash write-off of $1.73 million relating to the impairment of goodwill in commercial printing.

Operating revenue fell $4.3 million to $18.7 million, while operating expenses declined $2.3 million to $19.8 million.

In addition to The Royal Gazette, BPHL owns commercial printing, real estate and retail interests.

The rental and other segment produced income of $1.94 million, although this reduced to a total income of $192,000 once the loss of impairment of goodwill was factored.

The publishing and retail segment made a $1.75 million loss and the commercial printing segment, a $1.35 million loss.

BPHL had a $2.5 million, or 16.1 per cent, decline in advertising and retail revenue, a $1.5 million, or 36.9 per cent, decline in commercial printing, and a $256,000, or 8 per cent, decline in tenant and other income.

It maintained a high level of occupancy in its real estate, with an overall occupancy rate of 95 per cent. The cashflow generated, combined with cost reductions in operating subsidiaries, resulted in the company avoiding the need to borrow to fund operations.

Stephen Davidson, BPHL chairman, said the pandemic year has been a trial for Bermuda that will be pivotal in the island's future. He said: "Several years ago, our board chairperson lamented that Bermuda often seemed too cautious and fearful to adopt change, with negative consequences on our economy and the prospects for Bermudians. The scourge of Covid-19 has swept away many of Bermuda’s options to coast along without making hard decisions."

He made his comments in the BPHL’s annual report, filed with the Bermuda Stock Exchange yesterday.

Mr Davidson praised the Bermuda Government for the way it made difficult choices to find a balance between the community's health and safety and the island's economic prosperity, but he also recognised that those commendable measures have created "an economic reckoning that Bermudians must now face together".

The pandemic had led to a move to remote working by most professionals, while the island's economy "fell into doldrums unique in our history with the retail and hospitality sectors at a standstill, and much of the service sector limping along".

BHPL had adapted to remote working methods "even in the deadline driven newsroom", and had continued to produce The Royal Gazette six days a week.

The Stationery Store fast-launched online sales with notable success, while staff from Office Solutions supported retail operations by making deliveries.

Mr Davidson said The Royal Gazette continues its investment in people and systems to meet "the Digital First challenge". He added: "Our audience expect the same in-depth reporting of a print newspaper delivered electronically. This was evidenced as our web traffic soared to record-breaking levels over the last year."

As the economy suffered during the pandemic, BPHL was equally wounded as customers, advertisers and subscribers tightened purse-strings. The company achieved cost reductions by suspending certain business operations and through layoffs and wage reductions.

Mr Davidson expressed gratitude to the sacrifices of staff in keeping the enterprise working through such challenging times. He said: "The board is grateful for the sacrifices made by staff and the co-operation of our union partners in accepting wage reductions that allowed the company to adapt and survive the downturn."

Operating subsidiaries are issuing wage givebacks in months when operations realise positive cash flows.

Looking to the future, Mr Davidson said the pandemic had created a turning point for Bermuda. He said: "It’s clear that Bermuda will be a changed place going forward. Along with the recovery, there is also the opportunity to reform areas that have fostered inequity (such as taxes) or burden (such as public sector inefficiency) or lost opportunity (such as education and immigration issues).

"These are changes that will affect generations. We encourage our government to engage in fulsome consultation with all sectors of our community as they chart the course of our country’s future. As Bermuda’s dominant media outlet, we will maintain the trust the community places in us to fairly report on issues and shine light on both the island’s successes and weaknesses."

He said BPHL will maintain "its sincere commitment to journalism and our supporting assets in real estate".

He added: "We believe that independent media is essential to the civic health of a community and intend to evolve our media operations to serve a changing Bermuda. The board supports management’s plan to reposition The Royal Gazette for Digital First delivery with online subscriptions, while continuing to produce a printed newspaper."

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Published March 25, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated March 24, 2021 at 9:54 pm)

Bermuda Press Holdings posts $2.9m loss

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