Scotland business

Johnston Press sees lower profits but digital revenues up

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Newspaper publisher Johnston Press has reported a fall in half-year revenues and profit amid "challenging" trading conditions.

Adjusted pre-tax profit fell 31% year-on-year to £6.7m over the 26 weeks to 1 July.

Meanwhile, revenue dropped by 3.1% to £102.9m as print advertising revenues continued to fall.

However, Johnston saw strong growth in digital revenues and sales of the i newspaper, which it bought in 2016.

Excluding classifieds, group revenues grew by 4.6% to £85.6m.

Edinburgh-based Johnston, which owns more than 200 titles including The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post, said it remained confident in the outlook for the rest of 2017.

'Painful changes'

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said: "This is a business which we have long believed needed to transform, but once done, could return to growth.

"Thus, since 2012 we have been making the necessary and at times painful changes to transform Johnston Press into a truly cross-platform business."

Mr Highfield said that while trading remained "challenging", the business had "responded".

He added: "Digital revenues (excluding classifieds) have outweighed the declines of print advertising revenues, helped by an editorial focus that has resulted in digital audiences at a record high, and by a fantastic performance from the i newspaper which has achieved significantly enhanced performance during the 16 months since acquisition."

The company also said it was holding talks with pension trustees over £220m worth of loan notes due for repayment on 1 June 2019.

It follows "a period of initial consultations" with the company's largest shareholders and bondholders as part of a strategic review.

Last week, Johnston announced plans to cut a "significant" number of journalists from its Scottish weekly titles.

It cited audiences migrating to digital platforms and "industry giants" like Google and Facebook changing the way people read their news.

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