Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Catholic bishops pump millions into the publisher behind Alive-O! school books

THE PUBLISHER BEHIND several religious school books, including the well-known Alive-O! series, has slipped further into the red and continues to rely on Church funding to keep afloat.

Religious publisher Veritas made a loss of just under half a million euro in the year to the end of 2015, according to recently filed accounts.

The company is being supported by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which pumped millions in funding into the firm during the year.

Dublin-based Veritas is a Catholic publisher and retail group which publishes several different Christian books, including a range of bibles and the Alive-O! series, a widely used religious education series for primary school children.

According to accounts just filed by the firm, its turnover rose from €5.7 million in 2014 to €6.2 million in 2015.

Once the cost of sales were accounted for, the company made a gross profit of €3.5 million, up from €3.2 million the year before.

Loss

However, once additional costs, primarily ‘administrative expenses’, were factored in, the publisher made an operating loss of just under €400,000. 

Overall, when all costs were counted, the company made a net loss of €496,580.

Although this was an improvement on the previous year, when the company made a net loss of €1.8 million, the company is loaded with high debts.

The company owed €4.4 million to its creditors within the next year, while the firm was sitting on stocks worth more than €3 million. 

The accounts noted that a charge has been made to reflect the possibility of “stocks being sold at less than cost”.

Veritas’s accumulated losses stood at almost €5 million at the end of 2014 and would have been pushed higher still were it not for a €4 million cash injection.

The business received a €4 million ‘capital contribution’ from Veritas Communications, the publisher’s parent company. 

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference is the ultimate controlling party and arranged for the money to be put into Veritas.

The conference is the official assembly of the Roman Catholic bishops of Ireland, who together oversee various Church functions like education and pastoral care.

Plan

The company’s directors report stated that the firm “has prepared a plan that will see the business return to generating positive cash flows”.

“The company performed strongly in the second half of the year due to the launch of the new primary school programme and the recovery of sales in the core categories of books and gifts.”

The firm said that it is confident of the “continued support of its funders”.

Performing well

A spokesman for the company told Fora that its religious educational publishing “has always been an important part of the overall Veritas business and this part of our business is performing very well at the moment”.

He added: “Like most businesses in Ireland we have faced challenging trading conditions in recent years, but the rest of our business is performing much better this year and the company expects to return to profitability in 2016.”

Some 98 people were employed by the firm during the year, up from 95 the year before, although staff costs were largely static at about €2.3 million.

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