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Johnston Press takes 'cautious' look into 2008

Johnston Press is looking cautiously at its prospects for 2008, according to a trading update issued today.

World financial markets, the domestic economy and consumer confidence is tempering its predictions for the year.

Its overall advertising revenues increased by 0.2 per cent with like-for-like UK print advertising revenues declining by 0.8 per cent. During the first half of the year, the equivalent figures were reductions of 1.5 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively.

But the company remains positive, its statement to the stock exchange saying: “The business is in excellent shape, the major print investments will contribute fully and the consequent reduction in the level of capital expenditure will have a positive impact on cash generation.

“We also expect continued rapid growth in our digital activities and to achieve ongoing improvements in the operational efficiency of the business.

“Recent turmoil in world financial markets and the consequential effects on the domestic economy and consumer confidence must lead to a degree of caution when considering prospects for 2008.

“For 2007, the board continues to anticipate a satisfactory outcome for the year as a whole.”

Its portfolio of more than 300 titles includes the Portsmouth News, Sunderland Echo, Hartlepool Mail, Shields Gazette, Northamptonshire Chronicle & Echo, and Halifax Courier, as well as the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post.

Its update refers to the second half of the financial year ending December 31.

Digital revenues continued to grow strongly, up by 35.3 per cent in the six months as a result of increased investment, with iAnnounce, an online facility to allow users to set up a dedicated page to celebrate or commemorate personal events is expected to drive significant revenue growth.

And a rapid growth in online users and a roll-out of new print launches means that there has been a further increase in audience reach.

The company predicted that integration of Scottish titles acquired from Archant and a restructuring of Republic of Ireland businesses along with losses on the sale of printing businesses and Best Asian Media will cost more than £6m.

Newspaper sales revenue continued to grow with increased cover prices more than off-setting declines in circulation.

  • Non-executive director Les Hinton has resigned from the board, following his appointment as chief executive officer of Dow Jones & Co.
  • Johnston owns 18 daily newspapers, 291 weekly newspapers and a range of related specialist, locally focussed, print publications, as well as 317 local websites.