Johnston Press strategy ‘showing real traction’

Ashley Highfield. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1008/01a
Ashley Highfield. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1008/01a
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JOHNSTON Press said its strategy was “showing real traction” after trading improved in July.

Johnston Press, which owns The Yorkshire Post, has announced its interim results for the 26 weeks ending July 4 2015.

The group said it traded well in the first quarter, and while the second quarter was impacted by a slowdown in general trading, July has shown some improvement.

Digital audience grew by over 20 per cent to an average monthly audience of 19.9m in the first half of 2015.

It recorded total underlying revenues of £128.9m, reflected a decline of 4.6 per cent for the period.

Underlying profit before tax increased by £9.5m to £17.8m. Net debt reduced by £10.9m from the year end to £183.3m.

Ashley Highfield, the chief executive, said: “Trading conditions in the first half of 2015 have undoubtedly been challenging, with May and June being particularly difficult - a time when there was also a high degree of uncertainty in the wider market.

“However, we believe, local publishing, with SMEs representing 80 per cent of our advertising revenue, is not as volatile as national publishing. We have seen some improvement in reducing the decline in advertising revenues in July compared to July 2014.

“We will continue to drive for further improvement in revenues, albeit off a lower base, and will also continue to target further cost savings. Our strategy remains constant and is showing real traction. Digital now accounts for over 20 per cent of advertising revenues, up from 13 per cent two years ago.

“Digital display saw growth of 30 per cent in the period and we are developing new digital products such as AdPerfect# and Powerlistings~ aimed at small businesses. Our participation in the industry-wide 1XL national advertising exchange has contributed to our national digital advertising revenues growing by 120 per cent in the period to £2.0m.”