Publishing group Johnston Press today said sales trends improved last month, helped by a jump in demand for its newest acquisition.
The Edinburgh-based owner of The Scotsman said group revenues were down 13.7 per cent during the 17 weeks to 30 April, reflecting a 14.4 per cent fall in the first quarter and an “improved rate of decline of 11.5 per cent in April”.
The group completed its £24 million acquisition of the i newspaper on 10 April, and said daily print sales peaked at 297,849 for the month, a rise of 7 per cent over the peaks seen in March 2016. The title was last week launched into Northern Ireland and its website, inews.co.uk, reached 638,000 unique users within its first month, having gone live on 14 April.
In a trading update ahead of its annual meeting, Johnston Press – which also owns the Edinburgh Evening News, Scotland on Sunday, Yorkshire Post and scores of local newspapers and websites – said: “The sector has continued to experience challenging trading conditions and volatility in the advertising market in the first quarter, which began to show signs of improvement in April.
“Johnston Press remains focused on increasing audiences, providing creative solutions for our advertisers, further cost reduction and integration and growth within the i. At this point, the board expects performance for the full year to be within the range of market expectation.”
Advertising revenues for the 17-week period were down 16.9 per cent, while digital revenues were down 5.7 per cent in the first quarter but up 4.5 per cent for April.
Johnston Press, led by chief executive Ashley Highfield, added: “Following the completion of the i acquisition, we continue to explore the disposal of certain assets, with a view to deleveraging the balance sheet and further reducing financing costs.”