Archant set for 'strategic review' after replacement for Adrian Jeakings is announced

Archant chairman Simon Bax has written to shareholders “in lieu of an interim statement” to say there will be a "strategic review of the business" when a new chief executive is appointed.

Bax said Archant's financial performance is "broadly in line with expectations" and that he expects the company to be debt-free by the end of the year.

The former Pixar and Twentieth Century Fox chief financial officer, who joined the regional publisher in April, also told shareholders that Archant soon hopes to be able to announce a replacement for chief executive Adrian Jeakings, who stood down last week after 12 years at the publisher.

On Jeakings, the chairman said: “Adrian has led the company through an extremely difficult period for the entire industry and has worked tirelessly to transform the Group.  He leaves it in good shape financially and with an excellent management team.” 

Bax said Archant was “undergoing a lot of change as it adapts to the structural challenges facing the industry” but said he believes it is “moving in the right direction”.

Commenting on current financial results, he said: “Our half-year financial performance is broadly in line with expectations, and we currently expect reported numbers to be at similar levels to last year.

“A number of initiatives are beginning to show results, though we still face a difficult operating environment in many parts of the business.

“Cash performance remains strong and we expect this to continue in the second half of the year and anticipate having no bank debt at year end.

“Unfortunately, our long running dispute with HMRC continues and we do not expect this to be concluded in 2014.”

He added: “Although much has been written about the challenges facing our industry I strongly believe that there will always be a need and desire to receive local news and information and it is up to us to be brave and innovative in how we reach our audience and meet the needs of our clients.  I am looking forward to an exciting future for Archant.”

In March, Archant claimed an almost 50 per cent rise in operating profits for 2013, despite a fall in revenue.

The group said it had issued a statement to shareholders informing them that profits rose to £9.4m last year. This is up 49.2 per cent from the £6.3m profit achieved in 2012.

According to Archant, group turnover last year was down 3.6 per cent to £126.6m – while digital revenues grew by 19.3 percent to £7.2m.

Net debt fell 56 per cent to £6.8m by the end of the year and cost savings amounted to £7.9m over the year, the group said.

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