Guardian Media Group’s regional newspapers have seen operating profits rise to a record high of £32.6m.
The group’s annual report and accounts for the year to April 3 show operating profits for the division, which publishes the Manchester Evening News and the Reading Evening Post as well as 41 weekly newspapers, increased by six per cent on the previous year.
The division also saw advertising revenue rise by nine per cent, thanks to a strategy of delivering increased market coverage, mainly through its free newspapers.
Job advertising had seven strong months but slowed towards the end of the year and, although the housing market has cooled, property advertising “boomed”.
Overall the group, which also owns The Guardian and The Observer as well as a number of magazines and radio stations, saw pre-tax profits fall to £22.9m from £43.6m last year, due to capital projects amounting to more than £100m.
Group turnover, including share of joint venture and associates, increased by 18 per cent to £751.9m, and its total operating profit, excluding amortisation of intangibles and exceptionals, rose to £122.4m.
Commenting on the results, chairman Paul Myners, said GMG believed in “managing with a longer view” and said the group was on the brink of revolutionary format changes to its national newspapers with an £80m project involving three new all-colour presses.
A further £24m has also been committed to new all-colour presses for GMG’s northern local titles.
New premises for both Guardian Newspapers and the Manchester Evening News are also being developed, and it is hoped MEN staff will move to their new offices next year.
Other key developments among the group’s regional titles in the past year have included the launch of a morning edition of the MEN and a free Lite edition for home-going commuters.
The Reading Evening Post changed on Fridays from an evening to a morning edition and on Wednesdays from a paid-for to one distributed free to every household in the town, as well as through newsagents.