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Johnston performing 'better than expected'

The circulations of weekly newspapers owned by Johnston Press have continued to rise over the past six months, according to the publisher.

The increase is in keeping with the trend of the past seven years, and there were also marked improvements at some of its daily titles, according to a group trading update. But it added that overall, they continued to show a modest decline.

The group, which publishes more than 240 newspapers including the Yorkshire Post, Hartlepool Mail, Shields Gazette, Halifax Courier, Peterborough Evening Telegraph, Lancashire Evening Post and Blackpool Gazette, said trading for the first 23 weeks of the year had been encouraging and ahead of expectations.

Advertising revenues grew by 5.8 per cent compared with the same period last year, with the strongest growth coming from recruitment, reflecting the improved business climate in the south of the country.

Within modest overall growth in display advertising, the group reported business from national advertisers to be particularly strong, albeit against weak comparatives in the first half of 2003.

Looking ahead, the group said it anticipated continued growth of advertising revenues in the second half of the year, and this, combined with ongoing control of costs and stable newsprint prices, meant it was confident of achieving further progress for the year as a whole.

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