Red ink flowed last year at Metro International, the Luxembourg-headquartered (but Swedish-owned) publisher of free daily newspapers in seventeen countries.

The primary cause of the deficit appears to be the recent launch of new Metro editions in New York and Lisbon.

The group reported a 48.6% year-on-year increase in net sales to £160.1 million ($302.49m; €232.94m).and a £6.9 million operating profit. This compared with net sales of £107.8m and an operating loss of £2.1m in 2003.

For the full year 2004, Metro posted a net loss of £6.0m.

According to the publisher, nine of its sixteen national operations reported an annual operating profit last year - which if New York and Lisbon were excluded would have totalled £13.7m.

MI editions are published in 45 cities across seventeen countries in Europe, North and South America and Asia, claiming a combined daily readership of 15.2m. TNS Gallup reports that total European daily readership is 10.9m, of which 5.2m are within the coveted 18-40 age group.

MI's launch schedule continues unabated, with new editions planned for Rotterdam, four additional French cities plus a national Swedish edition.

The most notable gap in the group's European coverage is the UK, where the title Metro has been expropriated in London and Bath/Bristol by Associated Newspapers.

Data sourced from Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff