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Johnston profits up 51 per cent

Johnston Press made pre-tax profits of £66.7m in the first half of this year, and says it has made a “satisfactory” start to the second half.

In its interim results for the six months to June 30, the regional newspaper publisher revealed that its profit before tax had increased from £44.3m last year – a rise of 51 per cent.

Its portfolio includes the Portsmouth News, Sunderland Echo, Hartlepool Mail, Shields Gazette, Northamptonshire Chronicle & Echo, and Halifax Courier, as well as several titles acquired from Regional Independent Media in April 2002.

Its weekly newspaper circulations have seen another increase, this time by 1.1 per cent, giving the group its seventh successive year of growth.

But circulations of its daily titles fell by 3.3 per cent, in part due to further reductions in bulk sales.

The group says it remains confident that progress is being made in addressing declining evening sales.

Advertising revenues for the group grew modestly, with a like-for-like increase of three per cent compared with last year.

The group has also announced plans to invest at two of its print centres, which had previously been owned by RIM, following a review which led to the closure of the Harrogate press.

Johnston will install a new print tower at its Leeds centre to increase colour availability, while at Sheffield it will build a new £40m press centre which it is hoped will be fully on line in 2006 when the existing press will be closed.

Chief executive Tim Bowdler said: “We have made a satisfactory start to the second half. Costs remain under close control and we continue to enjoy the benefits of the integration of the RIM businesses.

“Although we see no early prospect of a significant improvement in overall market conditions, we anticipate continued modest advertising revenue growth and remain confident that the outcome for the year will reflect good progress.”

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