Johnston Press sees mobile visitors double as newspaper sales fall
By Pamela Mardle Tuesday, 21 August 2012
Johnston Press saw the number of monthly visits to its mobile platforms increase by 100% in the six months to 30 June, although it posted declines in group turnover and operating and pre-tax profits.
While digital revenues increased by 8.4% year-on-year to £10.3m, group turnover fell more than 8% to £176.1m on the back of declining newspaper sales, contract printing and print advertising revenues.
Newspaper sales were down 3.1% for the period, generating revenues of £46.7m. Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield highlighted that the transition of five titles from daily publications to weeklies had impacted on sales.
He said that the company was pleased with the outcome of its first phase of re-launches in Q1 and Q2, which affected 23 titles, and claimed it is on track to complete re-launches across its near 250 remaining titles by the end of the year.
Johnston Press recorded a £37.8m operating profit in the first financial half of 2012, 16% higher than that recorded in June 2011. Non-recurring items for the six months to June 30 2012 inflated operating profit by adding £7.4m revenue.
The £30m received from News International to terminate its printing contract five years into a 15-year agreement offset the cost of closing down Johnston Press’ Peterborough facility, including £10.8m in restructuring and redundancy costs and a £13.4m write-down of the value of the group's presses related to the site closure.
The sum received from News International contributed to the reduction in Johnston Press’ net debt to £332.1m by 31 July 2012, according to Highfield. This figure was recorded in the H1 interim results at £361.7m.
Before non-recurring items were considered, which also included a pension exchange scheme, underlying operating profit fell by 8.7% period-on-period to £30.4m, while pre-tax profit fell more than 41% to £8.1m from £13.8m in 2011.
A statement from the board said it was confident that the outcome for the group in 2012 would be in line with current expectations if the UK economy remained stable.
Highfield said in a statement: "The first half has been a period of tremendous activity and we have made significant progress. Johnston Press is going through a strategic transformation.
"As we continue to develop our digital portfolio, refresh our print offering, reduce costs, and use our substantial operating cash flow to bring down our debt, we are increasingly confident about the success of the strategy and the benefits that it will deliver."
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