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– Herald

Zimbabwe’s largest media group, Zimpapers, demonstrated resilience despite the ravaging impact of Covid-19, growing its revenue by 94 percent to $829 million (inflation-adjusted) year to date.

Finance director Mr Farai Matanhire told the group’s annual general meeting (AGM) that following only 3 percent revenue growth in 2020 as Covid-19 took its toll across the economy, price and volume recovery underpinned performance.

“All operational divisions recorded some revenue growth with DAP (Digital and Publishing Division) contributing the biggest growth of 75 percent whilst the (RBD) Radio Broadcasting Division was second at 16 percent,”

he said.

Mr Matanhire said the group’s commercial printing division (CPD) and fledgling television project, Zimbabwe Television Network (ZTN), contributed 4 percent each whilst Bold-Ads chipped in with only 1 percent.

Owing to better cost containment and positive revenue out-turn, the finance director said operating costs as a percentage of the group’s revenue improved to 56 percent compared to 59 percent in the same period last year.

Capital expenditure, Mr Matanhire said, came in at $105,5 million in the five months of the current financial period compared to the $56,8 million which was expended over the comparative period the previous year.

Chairman Tommy Sithole told the AGM that commercial media globally had not been spared the negative impact of Covid-19, not least in Zimbabwe.

He said global advertising and circulation were hit hardest, declining 19,5 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Overall, Mr Sithole noted that global news media revenues declined by a staggering 11 percent during the period under review with business entities being impacted variably, with some suffering more than others.

“It is pleasing to note therefore that Zimbabwe Newspapers held its own by denying those doomsday numbers and posting better results than the global performances as our revenue, in hyper-inflationary terms, was 94 percent better than the same reporting period last year,”

he said.

Mr Sithole pointed out that Zimpapers has always been a diversified group, with its commercial printing in Harare and Bulawayo having stood the test of time.

He said investments in new equipment and the ongoing upgrades had contributed immensely to the group’s resilience and profitability.

Zimpapers, Mr Sithole said, has matured in broadcasting, with four radio stations.

“We are about to delve into public, free to air television broadcasting after we were granted a licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.”

Looking ahead, Mr Sithole said the board, management and staff at Zimbabwe were now focused on hedging against decline in traditional publication and distribution of news, amid a fast growing digital age.

Group chief executive Mr Pikirayi Deketeke told the AGM that Zimpapers, Zimbabwe’s largest media group, revenue bulked 10 000 percent since the 2020 half year to $99 million in the first five months of 2021, driven mostly by DAP.

“Both our print and digital operations managed to stay afloat through various innovations such as substituting our print copies with e-papers to maintain our circulation subscriptions while an aggressive advertising campaign was launched to grow volumes,”

he said.

Mr Deketeke said the media group had seen a major rise in digital revenue and profit following full migration of some of the publishing house’s print publications to e-papers complemented by the drastic fall in costs.

“We are now able to reach far more audiences through our multiple platforms, be it newspapers, digital, radio and television. In this regard, our digital assets continue to spread across from paid platforms, ad-based revenue to a hybrid of WhatsApp advertising and subscriptions,”

Mr Deketeke said.

Zimpapers is now able to generate revenue through a cross section of platforms that include SMS, e-papers, e-editions via USSD, doc-send and Zimpapers New App, the group’s biggest, developed with New York partners PD House.

Mr Deketeke said ad-based revenue had grown exponentially across Zimpapers Group’s 15 websites, social media, BH24, Home-style magazine, radio stations (Star FM, Diamond FM, Capitalk and Nyaminyami FM and ZTN websites.

The country’s largest and only listed media group commands the largest audiences across its platforms, including a staggering 2,1 million followers and subscribers on its social media circle.

“Radio broadcasting accounts for over 50 percent of the total 1,155 million followers while the newspaper operations account for 43 percent at 988 000 followers,”

Mr Deketeke revealed.

He said the number of visitors to the group’s websites was now one million, with 14 customer-facing sites and this year revenue from the digital platforms was $16 million, driven mostly by ZTN’s online programmes.

Mr Deketeke, however, noted that only the group’s traditional printing division, Natprint and Typocrafters, did not perform well in the last five months due to machine breakdowns and forex limitations, but remain the leading players in the industry.

“Looking into the future, we believe the investments we are putting in television, complemented by the granting of the DTT licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe last year will ensure that Zimpapers continues to be the media of choice,”

he said.

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