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Profits up for Johnston

Johnston Press has revealed a 36 per cent jump in profits in its half-year results announcement.

The figure is strengthened by rising advertising revenues, which are continuing strongly into the second half of the financial year.

The group, which publishes nine evening newspapers, saw their circulation decline overall, but circulation of weekly titles had continued to grow.

Pre-tax profits leapt to £35.2 million from £25.9 million for the same period last year. Turnover rose to £147.5 million, from £103.1 million.

The advertising revenues have seen a like-for-like rise of nine per cent over the last half-year.

Chairman Fred Johnston said: “Building on the strong results in 1999, the company forged ahead in the half year to 30 June and recorded further excellent profit growth.

“The performance of recently acquired businesses has been stronger than anticipated.

“We have the management and financial resources to be a leading player in further industry consolidation.

“Advertising revenue remains healthy – the second half of the year has started well.”

His report said the circulation of weekly titles had continued to grow as they had for several years. But performance of the nine evening titles was disappointing, with an overall decline.

Two factors influenced this outcome, a policy of reducing bulk sales which were already at levels below the industry average and the temporary disruption at several press rooms during an investment programme to provide greater colour capability.

The company also revealed continuing progress in new media activities – over 3m page impressions per month, a figure which is expected to rise.

It also said it continued to see “substantial benefits” from last year’s acquisition of Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers, and that “further consolidation” in the industry was “inevitable”, Johnston being determined to play an active part.

In June it bought 14 titles in Lincolnshire, Nottingham and South Yorkshire from Southnews. It is one of three publishing groups which have applied for clearance to buy Regional Independent Media’s titles, which includes regional and local newspapers in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Johnston’s evening newspapers comprise: Sunderland Echo, Hartlepool Mail, Shields Gazette, Evening Courier – Halifax, Scarborough Evening News, Evening Telegraph – Peterborough, Northants Evening Telegraph, Northamptonshire Chronicle & Echo, The News – Portsmouth.

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