Australian-owned publisher Stuff has suffered a 24 per cent drop in operating profit in the year to June and remains for sale.

Stuff, which is owned by ASX-listed Nine Entertainment, contributed earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of A$28 million ($30m) on a 10 per cent decline in revenue.

Nine, which merged with Fairfax Media in late-2018, reported a 12 per cent rise in net profit to A$234m in 2019 with revenue up 40 per cent to $1.848 billion and earnings up 36 per cent.

Nine's digital and publishing division, which includes metropolitan news titles The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, grew revenue by 3 per cent to $637m with EBITDA rising 56 per cent to $130.1m

Advertisement

However, EBITDA for Nine's television broadcasting arm fell 11 per cent to $214m, with revenue down 5 per cent to $1.223b.

Stuff remains an asset held for sale, albeit the group is exploring a number of improvement initiatives at the same time, Nine said in its results presentation.

Potential buyers of Nine's New Zealand assets, including Stuff, have so far offered less than A$50m ($52.5m) for the operations, according to Australian media sources.

Nine had been hoping to sell the assets for around A$110m, according to The Australian newspaper.

However, suitors were not prepared to pay A$50m for the New Zealand business, the paper said.

Earlier this week the same newspaper reported speculation that merger plans between Stuff and rival NZME (publisher of the NZ Herald) could be back on following rumoured talks with the Government.

It says NZME and Nine (the Australian owner of Stuff) are trying to bypass the Commerce Commission by securing a law change, or a ministerial directive for an exemption from the Commerce Act.

Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher said: "There is nothing like that brewing. It is not on our agenda at all."

Advertisement

The Commerce Commission last year blocked an earlier plan to combine the New Zealand operations, now owned by Nine, with NZME, publisher of the New Zealand Herald.

A spokesman for NZME said it was not company policy to comment on speculation.