Cost cuts helped Richard Desmond boost pre-tax profit at Express Newspapers to £30.5m last year.
This was despite turnover dropping from £197m in 2014 to £174m last year and compares with a pre-tax profit of £812,000 in 2014.
The company said that despite a “challenging” trading environment for newspapers in 2015, savings on print and staff costs helped boost profits year on year. These included the closure of its printers in Broughton, Preston, with the loss of 91 jobs and the outsourcing of printing of its national newspaper titles in the north of England to a Johnston Press-owned printworks in Dinnington, Sheffield.
It said that in 2015 it “continued its strategic objective of growing digital revenues to offset declines in print advertising revenue, with a significant programme of investment in its digital assets providing onging improvements in their usability and reach”.
Monthly average page views to the Express and Star websites were said to be up by 152 per cent over the year.
Earlier this year Express Newspapers journalists wrote to their MPs to complain that they hadn’t received a pay rise in eight years.
In February the company said it was recruiting 40 more digital staff to bring the website editorial headcount above 100.
The accounts show that staff costs fell from from £54m in 2014 to £39m last year.
The number of production staff (mainly journalists) employed on the Express and star titles fell from 378 in 2014 to 309 in 2015.
Sales and distribution staff fell from 93 to 85. The overall number of employees fell from 536 to 460.
The company paid £6.9m in rent for the year to Richard Desmond’s Badger Property holdings for its 10 Lower Thames Street offices.
The highest paid director received £260,000 last year (compared with £2.3m in 2014).
Parent company Northern and Shell also includes the Health Lottery, magazine titles OK!, new! and Star.
The group has assets of nearly £400m. Its annual accounts for 2015 show plans to cash in on the 15.5-acre site of its former Westferry printworks with a mainly residential redevelopment.
Turnover on continuing activities (so excluding TV station Channel 5 which was sold in 2014) fell from £239m to £233m). The group made a pre-tax loss of £25m, compared with a profit of £326m in 2014 when it benefited from the Channel 5 sale.
The Health Lottery is said to have raised £76m for good causes over the last four years but cost the group a total of £134.7m in terms of pre-tax losses and investment.