Johannesburg - Media group Naspers on Tuesday reported that its fully diluted headline earnings per share for the year ended March 2009 were at 819c, down 22%, from the 1 051 cents reported the previous year.
The group's board recommended that the annual dividend be increased by 15% to 207c (previously 180c) per N ordinary share, and 41 cents (previously 36c) per unlisted A ordinary share.
Group revenue for the year was at R26.7bn, up 30% from the R20.5m reported a year ago.
Operating profit for the period was at R3.8bn compared to the R3.9bn reported before.
Naspers said that the past twelve months evidenced a global economic downturn.
It said each business in the group played the field as it found it and each adapted as fast as possible to these new conditions.
"Overall, the group's growth was satisfactory," it said.
"Emerging markets are at the centre of our strategy. In the aggregate and at consumer level, they were under pressure, but fared better than developed economies," said Naspers.
It was content that its recent internet acquisitions - Allegro, Ricardo and Gadu-Gadu - performed steadily. Also, its internet business was boosted by the inclusion of Allegro and Ricardo (formerly Tradus).
Pay-TV revenues increased by 29% as a result of its gross subscriber growth of 683 000 households.
"Our associates, Tencent in China and mail.ru in Russia, expanded.
"Our pay-TV businesses proved resilient. When people experience economic pressure, they spend more time at home and pay TV is an affordable form of entertainment. We invested substantially to grow, and the gross subscriber base improved," Naspers said.
Its technology business, Irdeto, was more impacted by the economy than its consumer-facing units.
It said that print circulations in South Africa and China held up, but advertising revenues were stagnant.
Naspers said that its print media operations in South Africa generated marginal revenue growth of 3%.
It said circulation and readership of newspapers and magazines mostly held up, while advertising felt the pinch of the economic slowdown.
"In this environment, operating costs have been reduced and capital expenditure reined in. The impact of these savings should materialise in the future," said Naspers.
The printing sector had revenue growth of 4%, although margins were affected by lower print volumes and exchange rates.
It said that the book publishing business was operating satisfactorily.
In Brazil, Abril had an excellent year and its contribution to core headline earnings increased to R414m (2008: R150m).
Looking ahead, Naspers said it mostly had resilient businesses in economies that were on average doing better than the developed world.
But it said competition in pay TV, regulation and consumer spending levels remained concerns.
"We will continue our growth strategy. Rigorous evaluation processes are applied when new investments are considered," it said.
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