Johnston Press claims operating profit up for the first time in seven years

Johnston Press has seen revenue fall 11.4 per cent in the first four months of the year, compared with the same period in 2012.

In a statement to the stock market this morning, the publishing group, which owns more than 200 local and regional newspapers, said it had increased operating profit for the first time in seven years after reducing costs. Fuller details will be announced when the company releases its interim results later in the year.

The group said it was on course to cut its costs by more than £20 million in 2013 following 2012’s restructuring as it continues to work towards its “key priority” of reducing its debt.

As part of its restructure, Johnston has relaunched the majority of its titles, with the remaining newspapers due to be relaunched in June.  It has also begun rolling out new websites for all its titles. For those titles relaunched so far this year, the group said average revenue has increased by around 6 per cent year on year.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said: “For the first time in almost seven years we are in a position to report a year-on-year increase in operating profit for the period.  While the economic environment continued to be challenging, the implementation of our strategy progressed further with the successful completion of the relaunch of the vast majority of our titles, together with the further development of our digital business and the rollout of new hardware and software to all sales staff and journalists.  With our reduced cost base and our continued focus on debt reduction, we remain on track to deliver a strong performance in 2013."

Despite the continuing fall in turnover, management said the rate of decline was slowing in each of the first three months of the year, although this trend did not continue in April.

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