However, the results also show a number of one-off costs including €3.5m of legal bills associated with investigations by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC).
Financial results for 2018 published this morning show INM recorded a profit before tax of €24.1 for the twelve months to the end of December 2018.
That beat expectations but is still down 15.4pc compared to 2017.
INM is the biggest private sector media business on the island of Ireland, with titles including Independent.ie, the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, Sunday World, Belfast Telegraph and Kerryman.
The results show a charge of €3.5m in exceptional legal costs, primarily associated with the high profile investigations currently underway into INM by the ODCE and DPC.
The investigations followed whistle-blower allegations about corporate governance at board level in INM and alleged data leaks.
“The company is co-operating with the inspectors and the DPC in their respective investigations,” the financial results state.
The legal bills relate to costs from an ODCE application to the High Court for the appointment of inspectors to look into the affairs if INM; costs in relation to a judicial review application made by INM in relation to the ODCE’s case; as well as costs in complying with a statutory obligations towards certain individuals seeking information in relation to a 2014 data security incident, the company said.
INM’s total revenues last year were €191m, down 2.1pc on the prior year. The business has a cash pile of €81.7m at the end of December.
The fall in overall sales was primarily driven by a decline in total print and online advertising revenues of 8.8pc, a decline in circulation revenues of 6.3pc and a decline in commercial printing revenues of 6.2pc, the results show.
However, distribution revenue increased by 26.5pc, boosted by bolt-on acquisitions completed during 2018.
While digital revenues decreased as a result of the consolidation within online advertising by the likes of Google and Facebook, INM clocked up better revenues in its classified businesses, led by CarsIreland.ie where revenues grew by 18.2pc.
Earlier this year INM told staff that it expected to make 30 redundancies across the business, as management unveiled a new strategic three-year plan.
Commenting on the latest figures, INM chairman Murdoch MacLennan said the business had made progress during 2018 in implementing the new strategy – dubbed [email protected] – with the full support of the board and new senior executive team.
“We have recorded a financial performance for 2018 ahead of market expectations and I can assure you that despite the challenges facing the industry the board and senior executive team of your group are both determined and confident that we are heading in the right direction to build a sustainable business for the future and to create shareholder value,” he said.
Group chief executive officer Michael Doorly said the results showed the pace of change in the media industry and the significant and unique challenges facing the group.
“While change is happening right across our sector, which is facing the challenges of digital disruption, changing consumer behaviours and economic shifts, I am pleased to report that we are moving forward in reshaping our business to better meet the needs of our print and online readers and customers. Producing quality content remains essential to the future of our business and to that end the calibre of our editorial team is unmatched in the Irish market. I would like to thank all of my colleagues in INM for their continued commitment and resolve in delivering to date on our new strategy,” he said.