Johnston Press announces profit increase

Ashley Highfield
Ashley Highfield

JOHNSTON PRESS plc, one of the leading community media groups in the British Isles, has announced its results for the 52 week period ended 28 December 2013.

Underlying operating profit increased by 2.5% from £53.0m to £54.3m, the first increase in underlying operating profit for seven years.

Advertising revenues in 2013 declined 6.4% on an underlying basis. Unadjusted advertising revenues were down 10% but significant improvements in the second half reduced this decline to 4.4% in H2.

Digital revenues were up 19.4% in the full year and 25.3% in the second half of 2013. In the most strategically important area of digital display advertising, JP saw revenue growth of 30.3% for the period, and 44.6% during H2.

In December 2013 the company achieved an aggregate audience of 21.1m, an increase of 17.1% against December 2012.

Digital audience growth for December was up 47.7% with unique users reaching 13.3m in December 2013.

Statutory loss before tax of £286.8m is due to significant exceptional items, largely the impairment of assets announced at the half year and restructuring costs.

Net debt was down £17.3m to £302.0m for the year with repayments of £33.1m partially offset by the increased PIK interest accrual of £12.1m.

Commenting on the annual results for 2013 and outlook, the Chief Executive, Ashley Highfield, said: “We are delighted to see a return to underlying operating profit growth for the first time in seven years, with underlying operating profits in 2013 increasing by 2.5% on 2012.

“Having delivered EBITDA of £62.7m in 2013, January and February has seen an 8% increase in EBITDA year on year. Our digital growth remains strong, with significantly increasing audiences coming to our websites in 2013 and into 2014. Along with slowing declines in print advertising revenues, and a stable circulation revenue decline rate, these are clear indications of good progress during the year in the implementation of our strategy for growth.

“During the year we completed the re-launch of our websites and our print titles, and took the first steps to re-invent community newspapers with significantly higher levels of user generated content. We invested further in technology to build our digital platforms, including launching DigitalKitbag, a one-stop-shop for digital marketing services aimed at the hundreds of thousands of Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) that we already serve in print.

“With the benefits of our actions coming through, coupled with strong digital growth and a slowing print decline, the Group is well positioned to make further progress in 2014.”