Scotland business

Shares in Johnston Press slump after first-half loss

i newspaper and Scotsman
Image caption Johnston Press publishes about 200 titles, including the i newspaper and The Scotsman

Shares in Johnston Press slumped after the publisher swung into the red in the first half of the year following a hefty one-off charge.

The Edinburgh-based group reported a statutory pre-tax loss of £183.7m, having made a £2.2m profit in the same period last year.

The publisher, whose titles include The Scotsman, cut the valuation of its title and print assets by 45% to £224m.

Johnston said the writedown followed "difficult trading conditions".

By late morning, the group's share price was down by more than 16%, at 11.5p.

Johnston, which owns about 200 titles around the UK, said adjusted pre-tax profit for the six months to 2 July was £12.3m - a fall of 27% on the same period last year.

It cited Brexit uncertainty and a continued slump in advertising as reasons for the fall.

Revenue for the first half was 9.7% down, at £113.9m.

This was despite a boost from the acquisition of the i newspaper in April, which resulted in a 2.3% increase in circulation revenue, to £38.4m.

Advertising revenues fell by 15% in the second quarter, a slight improvement on the 17.9% drop in the previous three months.

Print advertising sales, excluding classifieds, declined by 7.7% (not including the i), having fallen by 15.6% in the first quarter.

'Challenging market'

The group's digital audience grew by 22.4% to an average monthly audience of 24.4 million in the first half.

Its print audience declined, with weeklies down 10.9% year on year. The Yorkshire Post was down by 9.8% and The Scotsman by 10.9%.

However, the average daily circulation of the i newspaper, which Johnston acquired in April for £24m, grew from 270,182 in the month before the acquisition to 294,223 in June.

Johnston said a further increase was expected in July.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said: "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, maximising opportunities for the i, maintaining tight cost control and rebalancing our portfolio."

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