Newly-listed NZME, publisher of the New Zealand Herald, said its operating earnings improved slightly over the six months to June, despite a decline in revenue, allowing the company to pay a 3.5c interim dividend.

NZME, which listed on the NZX in June, said its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) came to $32.5 million, up a touch from $32.4 million in the previous corresponding period last year.

The company, once part of the Australian media group, APN News and Media, said its first result as a standlone entity was stable, despite revenue "headwinds".

Revenue, which fell by 7.9 per cent to $197.8 million in the half year, was impacted by a tough advertising market, especially in the first quarter, and the closure of the unprofitable Pacific Magazines licensed business in September last year.

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The company said its transition to an integrated media and entertainment business had delivered benefits, including improved cost efficiencies.

Chief executive Michael Boggs said the first quarter of the financial year had been "tough" but that the second quarter was much improved. "Q3 currently tracking well for us," he said. "So I think that there will be more of the same but we certainly know that it's an industry that faces its revenue headwinds," he told the Herald.

"Digital is obviously a key revenue-growing stream for us," he said.
Putting together the publishing, radio and GrabOne businesses together contributed to a 7.7 per cent reduction in NZME's "people" costs.

Commenting on NZME's print business , Boggs said: "I think that we are doing better than many - so that's an area the we continue to focus on," he said.

"One of the key priorities has to be to continue to maintain print revenues for the business overall," he said.

He said a key focus would be on retaining print revenues. "I totally recognise that it's a key component of our business and we need it to continue to be a key component of our business," he said. "The other new things are obviously important too, but print pays a lot of the bills today."

NZME and its main rival, Fairfax New Zealand, plan to merge, subject to approval from the Commerce Commission.

The commission last week said it had extended the date for a decision on the plan until March next year.

NZME's overall audience reach increased by 5.5 per cent from the fourth quarter to 3.2 million in the first quarter of this year and the company's print readership grew in the first half. NZME Radio's share of the 18-54 audience increased by 0.6 per cent in the first half.

The company's statutory net profit after tax came to $60.8 million compared to $21.9 million in first half, impacted by tax and gain on sale of an interest in the Australian Radio business.

NZME's reported loss from ordinary activities after tax was $64.3 million compared to a loss of $6 million in the comparative period last year.

"The loss from ordinary activities contains some significant non-repeating tax adjustments in relation to the settlement of historical matters with the IRD which impact the H1 16 result," the company said.

Our focus has enabled us to invest in emerging areas to drive new revenue streams.

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NZME chairman Sir John Anderson said NZME had delivered stable results in a challenging advertising market.

Over the last two years the company has been transforming its three businesses into one media company. In June, NZME reached a binding agreement with the IRD in relation to historical tax matters.

The settlement ended all areas of dispute between the IRD and NZME. The cash component of this settlement was $17.0 million - being NZME's share of the $33.9m total.

NZME chief executive Michael Boggs said the company has invested in new initiatives to deliver on its strategic imperatives of growing audience engagement, optimising integration opportunities, and diversifying revenue.

"Our focus has enabled us to invest in emerging areas to drive new revenue streams," he said in a statement. New e-Commerce initiatives included driven.co.nz, a user generated classifieds and auto listing site on the Driven Digital platform, which now has over 27,000 listings.

NZME also entered into a joint venture to launch an online restaurant booking and table management platform RestaurantHub.co.nz. The company has developed a joint venture with the Chinese Herald for a Chinese language version of nzherald.co.nz. He said the company's investment in short-form video content would continue.