Interactive Investor

ii view: magazine publisher Future shares surge 25% in one day

Its been a tough year for this owner of some well-known magazines. We assess prospects for the FTSE 250 company.

29th September 2023 15:44

by Keith Bowman from interactive investor

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Full-year trading update to 30 September

ii round-up:

Magazine and website operator Future (LSE:FUTR) today flagged its expectation for full-year profits to be in line with City forecasts, despite continued mixed trading given challenges for consumer spending and advertising demand. 

The owner of brands including Country Life, Marie Claire and PC Gamer continues to expect annual adjusted operating profit to the end of September of around £254 million when it reports results on 7 December. That’s down from last year’s £272 million. 

Shares in the FTSE 250 company rose by as much as 25% in UK trading having come into this update down around two-fifths year to date and hitting a mid-year low of under 640p per share. Shares in ad agency WPP (LSE:WPP) are down by a tenth in 2023, while ITV (LSE:ITV) has fallen by around 5%. The FTSE 250 index itself is down 3%.  

Future revenues are generated across advertising, magazines including subscriptions, and affiliate sales, with each accounting for roughly a third of overall revenues.

The company pointed to a stabilisation in customer or audience numbers during the second half of the year, with positive month-on-month momentum enjoyed over the final quarter.

As expected by management, advertising and affiliates trends had remained roughly in-line with the demand hit first half-year, despite a robust Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Prime Day in July for affiliate sales. 

Affiliate programmes work by allowing a business such as Future to promote and sell products or services of a company in exchange for a commission on each sale. 

Magazine related revenues had stayed resilient, while sales for its Go.Compare price comparison website had accelerated in the second half as consumers hunted for value. 

ii view:

Started in 1985, Future today is a multimedia company generating around three-fifths of its revenues in the UK and the rest from the USA. Connecting audiences to their passions through the written and video content it creates, Future delivers content across four verticals. These are Games, Entertainment & Technology, and Lifestyle, Knowledge & News, each responsible for around a third of overall revenues. Followed by Wealth & Savings generating just under a quarter of sales, and the balance of 10% largely from business-to-business sales.  

For investors, the tough economic backdrop potentially hindering advertising sales is not to be ignored. Costs generally for businesses also remain elevated. The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on future media content production warrants consideration, while a forecast dividend yield of under 1% contrasts with yields of over 5% at WPP and ITV.  

On the upside, the relatively new chief executive is attempting to inject renewed vigour back into the company’s trading, and Future has a number of diverse revenue streams. Bolt-on acquisitions have in the past added to growth, while a price-to-net asset value of under one contrasts with a three-year average of close to five, suggesting the shares offer better value. 

For now, and while a good dose of caution looks to remain sensible, a consensus analyst estimate of fair value at over £15 per share suggests longer-term optimism in the City persists.  

Positives: 

  • Diversity of titles and business revenues
  • Strong brand names

Negatives:

  • Uncertain economic outlook
  • Advertising revenues can prove volatile

The average rating of stock market analysts:

Buy

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