Archant chairman warns of 'weakened' ad market despite profit gains

The chairman of regional newspaper and magazine publisher Archant, Richard Jewson, has warned of uncertainty for the industry because of a weakened advertising market, despite improved profits for his company.

A preliminary statement to shareholders revealed yesterday that Archant made an operating profit on £30.5m in 2007, despite selling its Scottish titles to rival Johnston Press.

Jewson said that strong advertising revenues and improvements in Archant’s magazine division had helped the 3.4 per cent rise in profits year on year.

He said: ‘The outlook for 2008 is uncertain with a weakening of advertising in the final quarter of 2007 continuing into 2008. Despite these uncertainties we anticipate that our magazine business will see continued growth and that we will be able to build further upon our on-line developments.”

In like for like terms the company’s total revenue grew by three per cent to £198.6m and online revenue doubled last year to more than £2m with monthly unique users for the its websites increasing by 53.1 per cent.

The Scottish sale reduced the company’s debt from £54.8m at the start of 2006 to £36.9m now, but its profit growth from newspapers last year was 0.9 per cent – a figure the company referred to as ‘modest”. Profit growth in magazines however was 16.1 per cent.

Archant made a number of acquisitions during the year including Cambridge magazines Agenda and Property Plus while the Archant Life series of regional lifestyle magazines adding West Essex Life, Living Edge, in southern Manchester, and WeddingLink, a publishing and exhibition business in Cheshire.

Archant has four daily newspapers, including the Eastern Daily Press, 70 weekly papers, 80 magazines and over 130 websites, with 2,600 employees.

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