Johnston Press set to sell more titles as it reports steep drop in digital and print advertising

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Regional press giant Johnston Press has reported profit down £4m in the first six months of this year to £22m.

Revenue was down by just over £10m to £113.9m compared with the first half of 2015. But cost cuts of £8.6m compared with a year earlier ensured that the profit drop was not more severe.

A write down in the value of the group’s assets meant that it officially made a before-tax loss of £184m in the period.

Johnston Press agreed the sale of its newspaper titles on the Isle of Man for £4.25m in July and it said it is “actively exploring opportunities for the disposal of further assets”.

Both print and digital advertising revenue declined year on year at the publisher, with print down by 18.4 per cent to £51.4m in the period and digital down 9.2 per cent to £13.8m.

Newspaper sales revenue grew by 2.3 per cent to £38.4m, helped by the acquisition of national newspaper title i in April for £24m.

Johnston Press warned that the referendum vote in favour of Brexit in June had created “added market uncertainty” and that it was “now focused on revenue and cost measures to maintain margins and minimise the impact of a difficult trading environment”.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield (pictured) said: “The acquisition of the i newspaper in April was transformational for Johnston Press. Since the acquisition we have increased circulation considerably, using the extensive JP distribution network, and continued to grow market share.

“Perhaps more significantly, owning the i newspaper is enabling us to present the whole JP portfolio, and the 1XL digital advertising network, to media buying agencies and clients afresh.

“Further, we have started to see significant content sharing between the i and the rest of the portfolio.

“The market continues to be challenging and uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the Brexit negotiations has caused further softness in some
segments of the advertising market, in June and July.

“Nevertheless, we are focused on our strategy of increasing overall audiences, maximising opportunities for the i, maintaining tight cost control and rebalancing our portfolio.

“In that respect, we are nearing completion of the disposal of our Isle of Man newspaper group for £4.25 million and are well advanced in negotiations for further divestments.

“The divestment plans, alongside the strategic implementation of key initiatives such as Salesforce of the Future, will put Johnston Press on a
stronger footing for the future, focusing on key geographies, audiences segments and higher yielding advertisers, and will enable us to continue
to reduce debt levels and cut financing costs further and prepare the business for refinancing due by 2019.”

The company’s net debt has increased from £179.4m at 2 January 2016 to £209.4m at 2 July 2016 following the acquisition of the i newspaper.

Read the Johnston Press interim results presentation for the first half of the year in full.

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