Johnston Press announces underlying operating profit increase

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Johnston Press plc, publisher of the Lancashire Evening Post and one of the leading community media groups in the country has announced that underlying operating profit increased by 2.5 per cent from £53.0m to £54.3m last year, the first increase in underlying operating profit for seven years.

Advertising revenues declined 6.4 per cent on an underlying basis and unadjusted advertising revenues were down 10 per cent but significant improvements in the second half reduced this decline to 4.4 per cent in those six months.

Digital revenues were up 19.4 per cent in the full year and 25.3 per cent in the second half of 2013. In the strategically important area of digital display advertising, the company saw revenue growth of 30.3 per cent for the period, and 44.6 per cent during the second half of the year.

In December 2013 the company achieved an aggregate audience of 21.1m, an increase of 17.1 per cent against December 2012. Digital audience growth for December was up 47.7 per cent with unique users reaching 13.3m in December 2013.

A statutory loss before tax of £286.8m was due to significant exceptional items, largely the impairment of assets announced at the half year and restructuring costs.

The company’s net debt was down £17.3m to £302.0m.

Chief Executive, Ashley Highfield, said: “We are delighted to see a return to underlying operating profit growth for the first time in seven years, with underlying operating profits in 2013 increasing by 2.5 per cent on 2012.

“Our digital growth remains strong, with significantly increasing audiences coming to our websites in 2013 and into 2014. Along with slowing declines in print advertising revenues, and a stable circulation revenue decline rate, these are clear indications of good progress during the year in the implementation of our strategy for growth.”