Johnston Press ad revenue decline continues

Regional publisher Johnston Press has suffered a 6.3% year-on-year drop in like-for-like advertising revenues for the first half of 2010, although operating profits have risen for the first time since 2006.

Johnston Press: rate of ad revenue decline lis levelling out
Johnston Press: rate of ad revenue decline lis levelling out

The rate of decline in ad revenues is levelling out, changing from 7.8% in the first quarter to 4.7% in the second quarter. The trend started in 2008 and peaked with a 34% drop in the first quarter of 2009.

The publisher, which owns The Scotsman and the Lancashire Evening Post, said it was "confident" it would reach its year-end targets after posting operating profits of £40.5m, up from £38.2m.

Revenue at the group was £207.3m during the first half of the year, down 5.2% on the first six months of 2009.

Pre-tax profit in the first six months of 2010 was £26.1m, back into the black after a £94.2m loss in the same period last year.

Johnston Press said it was optimistic that it would achieve its end-of-year targets in the "absence of a further deterioration in the UK economy".

The company said it had cut its cost base by £13.6m in comparison with the first six months of 2009. This included a reduction in staff of 223, from 5,640 to 5,417, during the first six months of the year.

John Fry, chief executive, said: "In the first half, the group achieved an operating profit before non-recurring items of £40.5m, up from £38.2m in the prior year.  This represents our first operating profit increase reported since 2006.

"The strength of our publishing portfolio, along with our continued focus on costs, efficiencies and debt reduction, give the board confidence, in the absence of a further deterioration in the UK economy, that the outcome for the group in 2010 will be in line with current market expectations."

An announcement to staff at the publisher yesterday said that Chris Green, the Johnston Press divisional managing director in the North, is to leave his position.

An internal memo sent by chief operating officer Danny Cammiade said Green had decided to step down from his post after discussions involving a restructure at the group.

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