Record results for Johnston Press

Bowdler: commitment to staff

Johnston Press has increased its profit margin with a record set of results for 2003.

Turnover increased 15 per cent to £491.8m and pre-tax profit increased by 38 per cent to £128m. Operating profit was £160.6m, making a profit margin of 32.6 per cent.

Johnston is the UK’s fourth biggest regional newspaper publisher in terms of circulation, with 241 papers and 12.2 per cent of the market.

Circulation at its weekly papers increased by 1.3 per cent, making 2003 the seventh consecutive year of increase.

Advertising revenue increased by 3.8 per cent.

Circulations of the company’s daily papers remain in a “modest but stubborn decline”.

But page impressions for Johnston’s 160 local websites have increased by 40 per cent to more than 14 million a month. In his chairman’s statement, Roger Parry said the company would continue to “seek acquisition opportunities” and he urged the competition authorities not to stand in the way of future consolidation in the UK newspaper market.

As a result of the strong performance in 2003, most staff will receive free Johnston Press shares as part of a “share incentive plan”. The company says it has also injected £12.6m into its pension scheme.

Chief executive Tim Bowdler said: “We remain committed to being a progressive employer and will continue to take steps which recognise the value and importance of all our staff.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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