Classifieds revenue falls 28% at Johnston Press

05 Aug 2016

U.K. newspaper publisher Johnston Press, which owns more than 200 regional titles, published its interim financials and reported total revenue of £114 million ($149 million U.S.) in the 26 weeks to July 2, down 11.4 percent from £126.1 million in H1 of FY2015.

Print advertising excluding classifieds declined 10.3 percent to 32 million (£35.7 million in H1 of FY2015), and digital advertising excluding classifieds improved by 1.6 percent to £9.3 million (£ 9.1 million in 2015).

Classified advertising including employment, properties, autos and other advertising fell by 28.2 percent to £23.9 million (£33.4 million in 2015). The group said its classified advertising is an increasingly less significant part of its portfolio – especially jobs and real estate, which it said was looking challenged.

The group said its total digital advertising now represents 21.2 percent of total advertising.

Newspaper sales revenue grew by 2.3 percent to £38.4 million helped by the acquisition of national newspaper title i in April for £24 million.

Johnston Press bought the tabloid title i for £24 million from Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, owners of The Independent, in February. The Lebedevs have since ceased publication of The Independent’s daily and Sunday newspapers, making the title digital only.

Operating profit is down £4 million in the first six months of this year to £22 million (£26 million in 2015) the decline being mitigated somewhat by cost savings in the period of £8.6 million.

The publisher also revealed a £216.9 million impairment charge on its publishing titles and £6.9 million on presses (including real estate).

The group is reviewing its portfolio and is set to sell more titles. It has agreed a sale of its Isle of Man publications for £4.25 million, announced on the 4 July, and said it was actively exploring opportunities for the disposal of more assets. Further announcements will be made soon.

Strategic progress

The Group seeks to transform the business with four strategic priorities: grow overall audience (strong digital growth and reducing print decline), make a success of the acquisition of the i newspaper, create efficiency in its editorial and sales operations and strengthen its balance sheet.

Ashley Highfield, chief executive, said: “The acquisition of the i newspaper in April was transformational for Johnston Press. Since the acquisition we have increased circulation considerably, using the extensive distribution network, and continued to grow market share.

“The market continues to be challenging and uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the Brexit negotiations has caused further softness in some segments of the advertising market, in June and July.

“Nevertheless, we are focused on our strategy of increasing overall audiences, maximizing opportunities for the i, maintaining tight cost control and rebalancing our portfolio.

The divestment plans will put Johnston Press on a stronger footing for the future, focusing on key geographies, audiences segments, and higher yielding advertisers, and will enable us to continue to reduce debt levels and cut financing costs further and prepare the business for refinancing due by 2019.”

See the full results here.

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Lisa Walls-Hester