BPHL’s profit rises to $1.26m
Bermuda Press (Holdings) Ltd's full-year profit more than doubled to $1.26 million as cost-cutting measures bore fruit.
While revenue fell in the year ended September 30, 2016, the group was able to generate a $750,000 increase in consolidated net profit, primarily as a result of cost savings through consolidation in print division operations.
The company, which owns The Royal Gazette, as well as printing, retail and real estate interests, said revenue fell to $26.6 million from $27.2 million in the previous year, driven chiefly by a fall in sales of print advertising.
Earnings per share totalled 58 cents, up from 2 cents in 2015. And the company's share price on the Bermuda Stock Exchange rose more than 9 per cent during the year to $7.10.
BPHL said real estate was the most profitable segment, with an overall occupancy rate of 98 per cent in 2016, of which more than 60 per cent was made up of third-party tenants.
After an 18-month dividend suspension, the company resumed its quarterly payouts in March 2016. Last year it declared total dividends of 15 cents per share.
“The board will continue to review the company's performance and the ability to increase dividend payments to shareholders,” BPHL stated in a press release.
Highlights for the company last year included the implementation of a new advertising booking and customer relationship management system, as well as enhanced marketing of products in a bid to increase home delivery of The Royal Gazette and boost sales at the Stationery Store.
Training programmes were introduced to support the company's effort to obtain an Investors In People certification.
BPHL added that print operations were expanded to include sign printing, the eMoo website was redesigned with improved functionality and The Royal Gazette launched a mobile website.
Stephen Thomson, BPHL's chairman, described in his commentary in the company's annual report how the company's fortunes are tied directly to the performance of the local economy.
“More than $23 million of our annual revenue is tied to consumer spending,” Mr Thomson stated. “Leading indicators have shown an improvement in consumer confidence and should ultimately result in increased consumer spending.
“Despite improving consumer confidence, Bermuda's economy remains fragile.”
He welcomed the positive results seen in tourism and added: “Bermuda's economy has relied too heavily on international business as the primary driver of its economy and must diversify the economy. Continued positive trends in tourism will lead to increased confidence from investors and, ultimately, new capital investment in new hotels and activities targeting tourists.”
He also spoke about the economic impact of demographics.
“A declining birth rate and ageing population combined with the former government's policies on term limits for expatriates and an exodus of residents struggling since 2008 to find employment, while affording Bermuda's high cost of living, means that Bermudians must accept the reality — as in virtually all First World economies — that future economic growth will rely significantly on immigration.”
He lamented the stalling of the Government's “Pathways to Status” legislation, which was prevented from being debated by MPs last March by protesters who blocked the entrance to the House of Assembly.
“The majority of the population supported the legislation, and it provided a sensible and pragmatic approach to the problem of a declining population, while acknowledging the rights of individuals who had resided in Bermuda for long periods of time, including the children born and raised in Bermuda,” Mr Thomson said.
“Unfortunately, the legislative process was brought to a halt by a political protest and the democratically elected government was illegally barred from entering Parliament by a minority group of protesters.
“A democratically elected government must be able to advance its agenda and a vocal or disruptive minority should not be allowed to hinder progress. The silent majority must be represented by the Government.
“The ability for Bermuda to be economically successful relies on the Government taking immediate action to maintain and ultimately increase the population of Bermuda, along with maintaining stability, both politically and economically.
“Bermudians must find a peaceful and lawful way to resolving our differences. Our future depends on it.”
Mr Thomson also referred to the importance of The Royal Gazette maintaining high standards of journalism, arguing that this was all the more important given the proliferation of opinion on social media, the emergence of “fake news” and the fact that Bermuda is in a general election year.
“The Royal Gazette has often been accused of being biased towards one political party or another,” Mr Thomson said. “The truth is that The Royal Gazette goes to great efforts to ensure it is not biased towards anyone. Its responsibility is to report the news, not make news or to manage public relations of a political party, and it must do so while upholding the highest standards of journalism.
“The role of a journalist to be fair and unbiased is a requirement to enable the public to trust a newspaper.”
BPHL's annual general meeting is scheduled for 9:30am on Friday, March 24 at The Royal Gazette building, 2 Par-la-Ville Road, Hamilton.