Posted: May 6th, 2017
COMMITTEE man BILL ROWNTREE attended Trinity Mirror’s 2017 annual general meeting, held at the Museum of London Docklands on May 4, on behalf of AMP…
TRINITY’S chief executive Simon Fox stressed to shareholders that, although the print market was “challenging”, he believed the digital growth of audience and revenue would outgrow the loss from newspapers.
This, despite a “Trading Update” issued the same morning showing that TM print publishing revenue declined by 12 per cent for the first four months of 2017, only partially offset by digital growth at 6 per cent. Overall, group revenue fell by 16 per cent during that period.
He said the strategy of “Grow, Build, Protect, and Consolidate”, together with Trinity’s unique local and national footprint, were the vehicles for improving the operating margin and the dividend.
Challenged as to whether Trinity saw the future more with local titles rather than nationals, Simon said he saw it as a mix of both, together with associated websites. He also emphasised that new websites were being created, and cited inyourarea.co.uk which had come online only the day before.
Group finance director Vijay Vaghela reiterated TM’s approach to the defined benefit (DB) pension schemes operated by the group. (In addition to the Mirror Schemes there are two smaller schemes, the Trinity Retirement Benefit Scheme and the Midland Independent Newspapers Pension Scheme.)
Although in deficit, Vijay said he believed the DB schemes collectively had enough money to pay pensions up to 2045, subject to “certain conditions”. When I spoke to him after the meeting, Vijay agreed this calculation combined all the TM schemes, and promised to provide separate figures to AMP for Mirror pension scheme(s).
He also said that the combined deficit was expected to be eradicated by 2027 by a combination of contributions and asset [investment] returns, provided these returns were in excess of 2.6 per cent. Following that, company contributions were due to cease.
This all sounds like good news for Trinity Mirror and the shareholders, but perhaps not such good news for pensioners?
The company may have its figures correct, but I will wait to learn what our trustees, and indeed all the trustees, say about these proposals.
We do not know exactly what all the “conditions” are and, of course, there is another 3-year valuation under way.
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