Johnston Press profits halve as ad revenue hit

NEWSPAPER group Johnston Press saw profits cut in two in the first six months of the year as it was hit by falling advertising sales, the company reported yesterday.

The publisher of papers including the Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post said pre-tax profits fell to £8m as it took in £13.9m less from advertising than in the same period last year.

Johnston Press was boosted by a £30m payment from News International after a long-term printing contract was terminated. Without accounting for the one-off fee, turnover fell 16 per cent to £176m. Expenditure rose due to the £22.6m cost of removing staff and writing off printing presses.

Five of the company’s daily titles were turned into weeklies in April as part of a cost-cutting operation that aims to save £25m this year. Chief executive Ashley Highfield, who took over Johnston Press in November last year, said: “The first half has been a period of tremendous activity and we have made significant progress.”

Highfield has instigated a comprehensive facelift at the publisher, relaunching 23 of its nearly 250 titles and focusing on digital growth. Sales of online advertising were a rare boost, rising 8.4 per cent to £10.3m.

Shares in Johnston Press fell six per cent in trading yesterday. Gareth Davies of Numis said results were “a little below our expectations” in a “very tough” advertising backdrop.