Johnston Press ‘seeing signs of improvement’

Ashley Highfield: 'Good progress in restructuring operations'
Ashley Highfield: 'Good progress in restructuring operations'
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NEWSPAPER publisher Johnston Press, owner of The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News, said it was seeing some signs of improvement after a challenging start to the second half of the year.

The company, which has more than 240 newspapers in its portfolio, said the successful re-launch of 54 paid-for titles had helped reduce circulation revenue decline with year-on-year growth now expected in the fourth quarter.

The company said digital audience growth across its network of websites had continued “apace”, with monthly website visitors for October showing a 25.2 per cent year on year increase to 9.8 million. In its interim management statement for the 18 weeks to 3 November, chief executive Ashley Highfield said the period had shown an acceleration in activity.

“While market conditions have been even tougher than expected, we have made good progress in restructuring our operations, reducing the cost base, maintaining focus on debt reduction and continuing to invest in growth areas,” he said.

On a like-for-like basis, total revenues were down 11.4 per cent year-on-year, with circulation revenues down 0.5 per cent and total print and digital advertising revenues down 14 per cent. Some positive signs of a slowing in the rate of revenue decline had been seen so far in November.

Highfield said there had been encouraging early signs from the re-launch of titles and that the digital business had seen a “huge increase” in audience this year. The business was moving onto a “more stable footing”. Cost savings for the full year are now expected to be around £30m, a £5m increase on the previous estimate and repayment of debt was ahead of schedule. Shares in Johnston Press closed down 1p at 11p.