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UPDATE 1-Ad volatility hits profit at UK Daily Mail publisher

(Adds CEO comments, shares)

LONDON, May 27 (Reuters) - The publisher of the Daily Mail reported a 20% drop in pretax profit in its first half as its consumer business, which also includes freesheet Metro, was hurt by volatile ad markets and events and exhibitions were hit by COVID restrictions.

Daily Mail and General Trust Chief Executive Paul Zwillenberg said the company’s businesses performed as expected given the market conditions.

“We saw good revenue and profit growth from Mail Online and a solid performance from Mail print titles,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

“Not surprisingly Metro and our events businesses continued to be impacted by the pandemic and they were a drag on the overall results.”

The company said the advertising outlook for consumer media was difficult to predict, but circulation revenues were expected to be resilient, helped by a Daily Mail cover price increase.

Shares in DMGT have been boosted by its 20% stake in used car seller Cazoo, which said in March it would go public in New York through a merger with AJAX I Acquisition Corp.

Zwillenberg said he was delighted to see Cazoo go from strength to strength, with DMGT’s stake valued at $1.35 billion, an eight-times return in three years.

He said DMGT would be locked-up for six months after Cazoo goes public, and he declined to comment on the longer term.

“The focus is on getting the transaction away and helping Cazoo settle into life as a public company,” he said.

DMGT reported pretax profit of 47 million pounds ($66.35 million) for the six months to end-March on revenue down 12% on an underlying basis to 580 million pounds.

Its shares were trading up 3.5% in early deals. ($1 = 0.7084 pounds) (Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Kate Holton and Elaine Hardcastle)

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