NEW SOUTH WALES: Fairfax Media, which has reported one of its biggest annual losses since its return to the Australian stock market in the early 1990s, says it is too early to say whether the decline in advertising revenue has bottomed out.

Australia's oldest newspaper group slumped from pre-tax profits of A$523 million (US$437m; £268m, €306m) last year to an A$351m pre-tax loss ($294m; £180m, €205m) after making significant impairment and one-off charges.

The firm's chief executive Brian McCarthy said a meaningful recovery in advertising demand had not appeared in the first seven weeks of trading this financial year, and he believed it was "too early to call an upturn".

Much of the impairment charges came from writing down the value of the group's newspapers, which include The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Australian Financial Review.

Fairfax, which owns more than 400 titles in Australia and New Zealand as well as 15 radio stations, said the impact of the economic downturn had been greater in the second half of the year.

Although circulation figures in the Australian newspaper industry have held up reasonably well compared with other developed markets, advertising, particularly from classifieds, has fallen sharply. 

Upheaval at Fairfax was underlined in December when the firm parted company with David Kirk, its then chief executive. Soon after, Brian McCarthy was appointed.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff