Archant expects tough year as operating profits fall 27%

Regional newspaper publisher Archant has reported a 27 per cent drop in full-year profits for 2008, and said conditions had worsened since the new year.

The company, which last week announced 54 redundancies and a newsdesk merger at its Norfolk titles, made a £22.2m profit in the 12 months to December 2008, down 27.2 per cent from £30.5m in 2007.

Profits from newspaper publishing fell 31.8 per cent in the same period to £16.2m. Magazine-related profits were down 17.9 per cent to £5.8m.

The figures were announced in a statement to shareholders this week. Official audited accounts have yet to be filed at Companies House.

Archant reported a 9.2 per cent like-for-like dip in group revenue from £191.6m to £174m – with recruitment and property advertising the worst-affected sectors.

The publisher also announced a “significant” decline in display advertising at its Archant Life series of county lifestyle magazines.

Press Gazette revealed last month that four of the Life titles were poised to switch from monthly to annual frequency following a strategic review. That decision has now been reversed at two of the affected titles.

Digital revenues across the group grew 51.1 per cent last year to £3.8m, helped by the growth of online recruitment portal jobs24.co.uk.

Archant chairman Richard Jewson said last year’s difficult trading conditions had worsened and were likely to continue “for 2009 and beyond”.

“It is impossible to know the timing and extent of any recovery and difficult to foresee the shape and scale of our industry in the years ahead,” he told shareholders.

Archant employs about 2,400 staff and owns four daily newspapers – the Eastern Daily Press, Norwich Evening News, East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Evening Star.

It also publishes 130 websites, 60 weeklies and about 80 consumer magazines.

The company’s annual general meeting takes place in Norwich on 30 April.

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