Seven West Media: A saga of decline and disappointment

Company News

by Glenn Dyer

Shareholders in Seven West Media (ASX:SWM), the proprietors of the Seven TV Network, have languished without dividends for over six years, underscoring the dismal performance of the company under the stewardship of Kerry Stokes.

As the December 2023 interim report failed to yield any dividend, the majority of shareholders face the prospect of enduring a seven-year drought in dividend payouts. The last dividend, a mere 2 cents per share for the 2016-17 financial year disbursed in September 2017, remains a distant memory.

Initially described as a 'temporary' measure, the decision to suspend dividends now appears entrenched, with no signs of imminent change. Concurrently, the company's share value has stagnated, hovering around 28 cents, a stark contrast to its standing of 75 cents two years ago and 58 cents four years prior.

Earnings have plummeted, underscored by significant write-offs, resulting in billions of dollars in accumulated losses. The latest financial report delivered further dismal news, with a 39.4% decline in EBITDA to $124.2 million and a staggering 49.2% decrease in net after-tax profits (excluding one-offs) to $62.5 million for the December half-year period. Post $7.9 million in one-off items and associated costs, net earnings amounted to a mere $54.46 million.

Revenue also experienced a downturn, contracting by 5% to $775.78 million, largely attributable to a 9.1% downturn in the TV advertising market. Despite claims of mitigating strategies, such as a 1.7% increase in market share over the half-year period, Seven's TV business witnessed yet another decline in both earnings and revenue.

"Seven’s revenue decreased by 6.0 per cent to $686.3 million, despite a market decline for the period of 9.1%. Costs increased by 6.9 per cent to $570.7 million. As a result of these movements, EBIT decreased 44.3 per cent to $98.4 million," the company conceded on Tuesday.

The company's newspaper operations in Perth fared no better, with West Australian Newspapers experiencing a modest 3.5% uptick in revenue to $87.9 million for the half-year period. However, escalating costs, attributed to additional printing requirements and associated overheads, resulted in a 10.7% decline in EBIT to $15.1 million.

The once-mighty media conglomerate, under Kerry Stokes' control, finds itself embroiled in a protracted saga of decline and disappointment, with shareholders left to ponder the elusive promise of recovery amidst a landscape fraught with challenges and uncertainties.

Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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