Notes to the Accounts
1. Accounting policies
Accounting policies have been consistently applied except that FRS16 ‘Current Tax’ has been adopted and hence comparative figures have been restated to reflect that UK dividend income is now presented net of UK tax credits. In 1999 the taxation charge has been reduced by £3m and profit on the sale of fixed assets and investments has also been reduced by £3m. FRS15 ‘Tangible Fixed Assets’ has also been adopted.
a. Basis of accounting • The accounts are prepared under the historical cost convention and in accordance with applicable accounting standards. A summary of the significant accounting policies is set out below.
b. Basis of consolidation • The consolidated accounts include the accounts of all subsidiary undertakings made up to 31 December. Where companies have become or ceased to be subsidiary or associated undertakings during the year, the Group profit includes profits for the period during which they were subsidiary or associated undertakings.
From 1 January 1998 goodwill, being either the net excess of the cost of shares in subsidiary undertakings and associated undertakings over the value attributable to their net assets on acquisition or the cost of other goodwill by purchase, is capitalised and amortised through the profit and loss account over its estimated useful life not exceeding 20 years. Estimated useful life is determined after taking into account such factors as the nature and age of the business and the stability of the industry in which the acquired business operates as well as typical life spans of the acquired products to which the goodwill attaches. Goodwill is subject to an impairment review at the end of the first full year following an acquisition and at any other time if events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying value may not be recoverable. Goodwill arising on acquisitions before 1 January 1998 has been deducted from reserves and is charged or credited to the profit and loss account on disposal or closure of the business to which it relates.
The profit of the Group includes the Group’s share of the results of associated undertakings, and the consolidated balance sheet includes the Group’s interest in associated undertakings at the book value of attributable net assets and attributable goodwill. The figures included in the financial statements have been based on unaudited management accounts for the period to 31 December.
c. Sales • Sales represent the amount of goods and services, net of value added tax and other sales taxes, and excluding trade discounts and anticipated returns, provided to external customers and associated undertakings.
Revenue from the sale of books is recognised when the goods are shipped. Anticipated returns are based on historical return rates. Circulation and advertising revenue is recognised when the newspaper or other publication is published. Subscription revenue is recognised over the life of the subscription.
d. Pension costs • The regular pension cost of the Group’s defined benefit pension schemes is charged to the profit and loss account in order to apportion the cost of pensions over the service lives of employees in the schemes. Variations arising from a significant reduction in the number of employees are adjusted in the profit and loss account to the extent that the year’s regular pension cost, reduced by other variations, exceeds contributions payable for that year. Other variations are apportioned over the expected service lives of current employees in the schemes.
e. Post-retirement benefits other than pensions • Post-retirement benefits other than pensions are accounted for on an accruals basis to recognise this obligation over the expected service lives of the employees concerned.
f. Tangible fixed assets • The cost of tangible fixed assets other than freehold land is depreciated over estimated economic lives in equal annual amounts. Generally, freeholds are depreciated at 1% to 5% per annum, leaseholds at 2% per annum, or over the period of the lease if shorter, and plant and equipment at various rates between 5% and 33% per annum.
g. Leases • Finance lease rentals are capitalised at the net present value of the total amount of rentals payable under the leasing agreement (excluding finance charges) and depreciated in accordance with policy f above. Finance charges are written off over the period of the lease in reducing amounts in relation to the written down carrying cost. Operating lease rentals are expensed as incurred.
h. Fixed asset investments • Fixed asset investments are stated at cost less provisions for diminution in value.
i. Stocks • Stocks and work in progress are stated at the lower of cost and net realisable value.
j. Pre-publication costs • Pre-publication costs represent direct costs incurred in the development of titles prior to their publication. These costs are carried forward in stock where the title has a useful life in excess of one year. These costs are amortised over estimated economic lives of five years or less, upon publication of the title, with a higher proportion of the amortisation taken in the earlier years.
k. Royalty advances • Advances of royalties to authors are included within debtors when the advance is paid less any provision required to bring the amount down to its net realisable value. The royalty advance is expensed at the contracted royalty rate as the related revenues are earned.
l. Newspaper development costs • Revenue investment in the development of newspaper titles consists of measures to increase the volume and geographical spread of circulation. These measures include additional and enhanced editorial content, extended distribution and remote printing. These extra costs arising are expensed as incurred.
m. Deferred taxation • Deferred taxation is provided, using the liability method, at the expected applicable rates, on all timing differences between accounting and taxation treatments which are expected to reverse in the foreseeable future.
n. Financial instruments • The Group uses derivative financial instruments to manage its exposure to interest rate and foreign exchange risks. These include interest rate swaps, currency swaps and forward currency contracts. Amounts payable or receivable in respect of interest rate derivatives are accrued with net interest payable over the period of the contract. Where the derivative instrument is terminated early the gain or loss is spread over the remaining maturity of the original instrument. Foreign currency borrowings and their related derivatives are carried in the balance sheet at the relevant exchange rates at the balance sheet date. Gains or losses in respect of the hedging of overseas subsidiary undertakings are taken to reserves. Gains or losses arising from foreign exchange contracts are taken to the profit and loss account in line with the transactions which they are hedging. Premiums paid on contracts designed to manage currency exposure on specific acquisitions or disposals are charged to the profit and loss account.
The company participates in offset arrangements with certain banks whereby cash and overdraft amounts are offset against each other.
o. Foreign currencies • Profit and loss accounts in overseas currencies are translated into sterling at average rates. Balance sheets are translated into sterling at the rates ruling at 31 December. Exchange differences arising on consolidation are taken directly to reserves. Other exchange differences are taken to the profit and loss account where they relate to trading transactions and directly to reserves where they relate to investments.
The principal overseas currency for the Group is the US dollar. The average rate for the year against sterling was $1.51 (1999: $1.61) and the year end rate was $1.49 (1999: $1.61).
p. Liquid resources • Liquid resources comprise short-term deposits of less than one year and investments which are readily realisable and held on a short-term basis.
q. Retained profits of overseas subsidiaries and associates • No provision is made for any additional taxation, less double taxation relief, which would arise on the remittance of profits retained where there is no intention to remit such profits.