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Future suffers drop in consumer spending and audience figures

GoCompare owner Future builds price comparison market share but publisher suffers drop in consumer spending and audience figures

  • Future plc said annual adjusted operating profits are set to align with forecasts 
  • The magazine publisher owns Country Life, FourFourTwo and Horse & Hound
  • Glasgow-born chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne is set to step down this year 

Brands: Future plc publishes the popular women’s fashion magazine Marie Claire UK

Magazine owner Future has reiterated its full-year guidance despite a continued slowdown in audience numbers and consumer spending.

The MoneyWeek and Marie Claire UK publisher told investors annual adjusted operating profits are anticipated to align with forecasts, having grown by 39 per cent to £271.7million in the 12 months ending September. 

In the four months following that period, the FTSE 250 business said that overall sales had been ‘broadly’ commensurate with expectations, which it attributed to the ‘strength and diversity of the group.’

Future, the owner of GoCompare, boosted market share gains in home and car insurance. It also said it was ‘gaining momentum’ in its homes, fashion and beauty, and wealth and savings segments.

However, the firm flagged weaker readership and customer spending across its digital advertising and product affiliates revenues, especially within its consumer technology titles.

Future also made two additional acquisitions: South Carolina-based IT services provider ActualTech and Gardening Know How, an American homes website.  

Zillah Byng-Thorne, the company’s longstanding chief executive, said: ‘We are pleased to reiterate our guidance for the full year.

‘Whilst the macro environment remains uncertain, we look ahead with continued confidence in our plans to deliver on our strategy and outperform the industry.’

The Glaswegian boss is planning to stand down by the end of 2023 after nearly a decade in charge, having transformed the group from a struggling publisher on the verge of collapse to a £1.9billion media powerhouse.

Her tenure began with a restructuring involving hundreds of job cuts and the sale of Future’s sport, automotive and craft titles, which helped the business eventually rebound to a modest profit in 2015.

She then expanded the company’s traditional print operation, buying up a host of major publications, including football periodical FourFourTwo, Horse & Hound, and lifestyle brands Country Life and Ideal Home.

But, facing a long-term decline in magazine circulation, Byng-Thorne also accelerated the firm’s e-commerce, events and digital media offering.

Two years ago, Future completed its biggest takeover ever when it spent £594million to purchase GoCo Group, the owner of price comparison platform GoCompare, energy savings service Weflip and discount voucher platform MyVoucherCodes.

This buying spree has paid off for the business, which has posted record profits and revenues for the last eight successive years.

Future shares have also skyrocketed by approximately 20-fold since April 2014 when Byng-Thorne took over as chief executive. 

On late Wednesday afternoon, they were down 3.7 per cent at £15.44, making them one of the five biggest fallers on the FTSE 250 Index.


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