By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The Irish Times lost euro 21.7 million last year, including a once-off exceptional charge of euro 21 million to cover the cost of restructuring the newspaper.
The restructuring involves cutting the staff by 250, to 470. Long-time editor Conor Brady will step down later in the year when the restructuring package is in place.
The newspaper’s operating loss, before the restructuring charges, was euro 2.35 million, compared to an operating profit of euro 7.15 million in 2000.
Revenue was down from euro 110.7 million in 2000 to euro 104 million last year, primarily because of reduced advertising revenue as the economy slowed, according to managing director M’ve Donovan.
A number of issues contributed to the rise in operating costs, the most significant of which was higher staff wages and related costs.
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Payroll costs rose from euro 45.38 million to euro 52.6 million. That included the 11 executive directors, who shared euro 3.05 million in remuneration, including pension contributions.
There were also increases in the cost of newsprint and project costs associated with the introduction of a Saturday magazine and The Ticket listings supplement.
A number of cost savings were achieved in the last quarter of the year, but the bulk of the savings resulting from the layoffs will start to feed through in the last quarter of this year.
The company has budgeted for a modest loss this year and a return to profitability in 2003.
Donovan said advertising and circulation were in line with budget for the first six months of this year.
“The reorganization will position us very well, even if there is not an improvement in the market,” she said, adding that the newspaper remained committed to ireland.com, its online service. It has recently started charging for access to premium content on its site and has 6,000 subscribers.
“The challenge is to do it at a manageable level of cost while everybody takes a breath to see where the internet train is going,” Donovan said.