British newspaper group Daily Mail & General Trust has promised a robust response to moves against its titles by rival media baron Richard Desmond.

As reported in recent weeks [WAMN: 19-Nov-02; 27-Nov-02], Desmond’s Express Newspapers is planning a London evening freesheet to break the stranglehold on the capital held by DMGT’s Metro and Evening Standard titles; it is also planning a £50 million ($78m; €78m) promotional campaign to lure readers from the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.

But DMGT finance director Peter Williams revealed the group will not take such threats lying down.

“[Desmond’s freesheet] will stimulate the London market and that is not necessarily a bad thing. But we would prefer no competition at all and we will respond with vigour,” he declared. “We will certainly not let him come in and go for our market.”

He also played down the Express marketing campaign, arguing it would hurt tabloid title the Mirror more than the Mail.

“If he invests £50m in his newspapers, are we the ones who should be worried?” Williams continued. “Our view is the Daily and Sunday Express are some way away from the Mail. If they try to promote them as they are at the moment, I am not sure it is us that would be that hard hit.”

Williams’ comments coincided with an upbeat assessment of the advertising market by DMGT. The group revealed its ad revenues rose 5% for October and November, with signs of positive growth for December.

Although the group remains concerned about retail advertising, the generally positive ad performance helped mitigate the 1% fall in overall revenues for its fiscal 2002 (ended September 29) to £1.94 billion.

Advertising slumped 9% over the year, with a 38% plummet in recruitment ads at the Evening Standard, though circulations rose to compensate. Overall pre-tax profit stood at £182.5m, up 3% on the year before.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff