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Operational review

Novus Holdings (formerly Paarl Media Group) improved productivity and efficiencies in its core business of printing magazines, newspapers, catalogues, brochures and books, while diversifying into new market segments. It expanded into tissue manufacturing – through the acquisition of Correll Tissue – and secured its first commercial contracts for the printing of wet glue labels for the fast-moving consumer goods market. The group also grew its footprint on the rest of the continent. The group listed on the JSE Limited’s stock exchange (JSE) with the view to grow its printing, labelling and tissue businesses.

The News division experienced a tough year and recorded considerable shortfalls in advertising and circulation revenues despite continued cost-cutting measures. Even so, we retained our leading advertising and circulation market share in the country. City Press, the agenda-setting Sunday newspaper in the country, contributed a large share of the division’s profit, while our emerging market titles – notably Africa’s largest daily newspaper, Daily Sun, as well as South Africa’s second largest newspaper, Soccer Laduma, and Son – also showed good results. During the year the Afrikaans news sites of Die Burger, Beeld, Volksblad and Rapport were consolidated to launch Netwerk24, a single paid-for digital destination offering the best of Afrikaans journalism online. The product has been well received in the market and showed good subscriber uptake in its first year.

Lifestyle (formerly Magazines) had another good run thanks to timeous interventions to strip out costs and establish new revenue opportunities, such as events closely connected with its brands – Huisgenoot, YOU and DRUM set a new world record for ticket sales of the Days of the Dinosaur exhibition. The weeklies and contract publishers New Media Publishing were the star performers in the stable. Our total readership market share was stable at 80% — according to All Media and Products Survey (AMPS) and we improved our leading print and digital circulation market shares among the industry’s top five. Social media audiences grew by 47% year on year and access via tablets and mobile phones accounted for 73% of total access to its digital platforms.

On the Dot entrenched its position as the market leader in ecommerce warehousing and fulfilment focusing on the apparel and homeware sector. We bulked up our ecommerce warehouses in Cape Town and Johannesburg, extended our same-day delivery network to over 200 suburbs in metropolitan areas and signed up further large retail clients. Initiatives to realign the cost base and improve the distribution network to counter shrinking newspaper and magazine volumes in the media logistics operation are ongoing.

Our Books division retained its leading position in the South African trade publishing market, but experienced a tough year due to lacklustre trade sales, lower schoolbook orders in South Africa and Botswana, and the impact of rolling postal strikes. Via Afrika strengthened its digital leadership in basic education and acquired the local rights to TABTOR, a maths tutoring programme for tablets. Jonathan Ball Publishers successfully integrated the UK publishing company Little Brown Book Group into its existing operations and landed the US publisher Harlequin’s distribution in South Africa. NB Publishers grew ebook sales by more than 100%.

24.com remains South Africa’s leading news and entertainment portal and increased average daily pageviews across its media channels, from 3,6m to 7,2m over the past year, with gains mostly from mobile devices. News24 remains the top-ranked free news app on both iOS and Android in Africa. We expanded News24’s operation in Nigeria and are fast approaching a market top 10 position – we expect this region to outperform our South African audience base in the near future. Careers24, our online recruitment classifieds business, showed excellent growth and became the market leader in South Africa in terms of daily unique browsers and pageviews early in 2015.

Building on its successful debut year, our Ecommerce division’s online fashion business Spree recorded strong sales growth and increased its market share considerably in the past year. We expanded into new categories, signed up a leading international fashion retailer and launched our first private label brands.

Our financial data services business INET BFA successfully integrated operations and teams post the merger with I-Net Bridge in 2014. We enriched and upgraded our African research product, INET Expert, as well as our flagship product IGraph, which is currently being used by the majority of asset managers in South Africa. We also expanded operations into Nigeria.