Southern Cross Media Group Ltd reports strong earnings growth: Is it a buy?

Is Southern Cross Media Group Ltd (ASX:SXL) a buy after reporting strong earnings growth?

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Southern Cross Media Group Ltd (ASX: SXL) shares were up over 2% shortly after the market opened this morning following strong results for the half year ended 31 December 2015. While the shares have since dropped back a touch, I believe the earnings report was strong enough to make the shares worth a closer look.

The company pulled in revenue of $322 million for the period, an increase of 4.7% year over year. But perhaps most impressive was the increased level of profitability which saw Southern Cross Media report net profit growth of 25.1% year over year to $43.4 million.

It was able to achieve this by significantly cutting down on administration costs and interest expenses. The results, which equate to earnings of 5.9 cents per share, put the company well on its way to achieving the full-year earnings per share of 10.2 cents which the market is expecting.

Looking deeper into the results we can see that there was an impressive 6.9% increase in its Metro segment which saw revenue grow from $113.2 million to $120.1 million. This was supported by its Regional segment which posted a 3.3% increase year over year to $188.5 million.

This is very positive at a time when many feel Google and Facebook are stealing away advertising revenue from the likes of Southern Cross Media, Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd (ASX: NEC), Ten Network Holdings Limited (ASX: TEN), and Seven West Media Ltd (ASX: SWM).

Southern Cross Media declared an interim dividend of 3.25 cents, which was an increase from 3 cents last year. I expect another 3.25 cent final dividend will be declared in six months, bringing the full year yield to 5.9% at the current trading price. Traditionally the dividends are fully-franked and I wouldn’t expect this to change.

I see these results as being very encouraging and expect the company to be able to easily achieve the 7% annual earnings growth the market expects of it through until 2018. With both its Metro and Regional segments performing strongly, and operating costs being reduced, the company looks to be in a great shape. This, along with the strong dividend the company pays, makes the shares a compelling investment case for both growth and income investors in my opinion.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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