Profits boost for Johnston

Tight cost
controls and internal growth is enabling Edinburgh-based Johnston Press
group to improve profits despite flat advertising revenues and falling
circulations.

Pre-tax profits jumped 9.3 per cent to £82.2m in
the six months to end-June on sales at £264.6m – helped by strong
growth in its electronic publishing division which made a profit of
£3.1m.

The group launched 30 titles in the first six months of
this year – 26 of them small community newspapers – and says it is
aiming for about the same number in the second half.

Chief
executive Tim Bowdler explained this was part of increased efforts to
boost revenue – including looking at ways to broaden the range of
choices for advertisers, such as launching different types of
publication in the same market.

Bowdler has previously confirmed
Johnston is interested in buying into the Irish newspaper market
following the recent acquisition of Score Press from Emap for £155m,
which gave it 24 local titles in Northern Ireland and five in the
Republic.

It has been reported as weighing up the Leinster Leader
group, which is on the market for between £40m and £60m, and the
3i-owned Local Press in Northern Ireland.

However, Bowdler is
giving nothing away in his plans for further acquisitions other than to
point out: “I’d be very disappointed if Johnston Press was not
connected with lots of opportunities. We always have our eyes open.”

Johnston is the UK’s fourth largest regional newspaper publisher.

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