However, operating profit from continuing operations was £2.1m, up 6% from last year, due mainly to technology-led efficiencies in our data business and a continued focus on costs.
During the year we paid shareholders a dividend of £20m from the final proceeds from the sale of our MeteoGroup weather business to General Atlantic LLC in 2014. From the proceeds of that sale, a further £10m payment was placed in an escrow account in favour of the PA pension fund.
We also saw some changes to the makeup of our board whose guidance remains crucial to ensuring that the PA Group continues to meet the changing needs of its customers, while implementing new strategies to future-proof the business.
Geraldine Allinson was appointed as a non-executive director in March 2015. She brings to the board considerable insight into the needs of the UK’s regional press, as Chairman of the KM Group, an independent, family-owned multimedia company serving the communities of Kent and Medway.
In September, we also welcomed back Rebekah Brooks as a non-executive director, following her appointment as Chief Executive of News UK. Rebekah had previously served on the board between 2010 and 2011.
Three non-executive directors, Dame Helen Alexander, Mike Darcey and Adrian Jeakings, stepped down during the year and they leave with our thanks for their hard work and dedication over their terms of service.
Simon Fox replaces Adrian Jeakings as chair of the Audit Committee, with Geraldine Allinson also making a valuable contribution as a recently appointed member.
In 2016 we will also bid farewell to John Bryant who retires as Chairman of the PA Trust having worked since 2008 to ensure that the agency’s values of fast, fair and accurate reporting were never compromised. He leaves with our thanks and best wishes.
As publishers seek to adapt and evolve their business models during a period of unparalleled change, PA is continuing to position itself to capitalise on the opportunities to create new content, products and services for digital platforms, while remaining true to its core values of accuracy, impartiality and integrity.