DMGT cuts costs but rules out newspaper closures

About 400 people have left Associated Newspapers and Northcliffe in the past two months and not been replaced, DMGT confirmed today.

The national and regional newspaper publisher said non-replacement of staff was part of a £100m cost-cutting drive being implemented after overall group pre-tax profits fell nine per cent last year.

Asked how many more jobs were likely to go, DMGT finance director Peter Williams said the group was “well over halfway” in meeting its target.

“We are continuing to look at our staffing levels but the majority of what’s going to happen has already happened,” Williams told reporters in a conference call this morning.

“As far as possible, we will seek to achieve the remainder by not replacing people who leave and not filling vacancies.”

He later added: “There are absolutely no closures of titles assumed in that £100m figure.”

In its end-of-year results, published this morning, DMGT group revenues rose three per cent year on year to £2.31bn. Pre-tax profit was down nine per cent on a like-for-like basis to £262m.

Operating profits at Mail, Metro, Evening Standard and London Lite publisher Associated Newspapers fell 13 per cent year on year to £73m on flat revenues.

The profit decline at Northcliffe was twice that – down 26 per cent to £68m on revenue down six per cent at £420m.

“We don’t believe we should be damaging the businesses. We’re looking to reduce our cost base intelligently,” Williams said of the cost-cutting plan.

“DMGT will not cut costs at all costs solely to defend a particular number. We will do what we think is appropriate for the long-term good of the business.”

He said the decision last month to increase the Saturday cover price of the Daily Mail from 70p to 80p – its first price rise in five years – was worth an extra £10m a year.

The London Evening Standard has cut one of its daily editions to save money and marketing spend has also been slashed.

Associated and Northcliffe have also entered into negotiations with the group’s newsprint suppliers in an attempt to cut their £250m annual paper bill.

Williams said DMGT was not expecting to see any improvement in the advertising market until at least next autumn.

“We have good visibility until about the end of this week. Beyond that it’s pretty tough,” he said.

“Certainly we are not expecting any recovering in our advertising markets until next September. And indeed we suspect it could well get worse.”

Trinity Mirror confirmed yesterday that it was imposing a recruitment freeze and had closed 44 titles in the past year to save money.

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