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Johnston Press wins contract to print national titles as profits rise

Ashley-Highfield2-e1401302531277Regional publisher Johnston Press has announced it has won a multi-million pound contract to print four national newspapers on the day annual results showed a 2.8pc increase in operating profits.

The local media group has signed a five-year deal to print the Daily Express, Daily Star, Sunday Express and Daily Star Sunday at its Dinnington print plant near Sheffield.

The four Richard Desmond-owned titles are currently printed at Broughton, Preston. It is anticipated production will move to Dinnington in July.

The announcement came as JP’s annual results showed operating profits up 2.8pc to £55.5m although revenues were down 4.4pc at £265.9m.

David Crow, Johnston Press’ MD Group Services Division (Print & Logistics) said: “We are delighted by this significant deal and thrilled to have these prestigious titles in our print portfolio. This new contract underpins the exacting levels of service we can offer customers.”

Johnston Press’ existing print clients include Local World, Guardian Media Group and Tindle Newspaper Group.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield, above left, added: “This new contract is testament to the quality of service provided by the highly trained teams at our printing sites and demonstrates the faith other media groups have in our ability to deliver exceptional quality products.

“Congratulations to the team for securing such a prestigious contract.”

Today’s results showed the company managed to pay off more than £100m of debt during 2014, with net debt down from £304m at the start of the year to £194m.

This was mainly due to the refinancing operation last June which raied £360m in new shares and bonds.

According to today’s report, operating costs were reduced by £13.8m although no figure is given for staffing reductions.

Digital revenues grew by 20pc to stand at £28.8m for the year – representing 17.4pc of overall advertising revenues – while digital audiences were up 35pc at 16.7m.

The report says: “During 2014 we continued to transform our business in line with the strategic priorities set out in 2012.

“Business transformation remains at the forefront of our plans, and following a successful pilot, Newsroom of the Future is being rolled out across the group.”

Ashley also highlighted the ‘Newsroom of the Future’ initiative in his chief executive’s report, saying it will “re-engineer our newsrooms to equip us to cope with the demands of reporting in the modern age.”

He said that in the future, JP newsrooms will deliver larger and more engaged digital audiences, improved print products, more user generated content and new workflows and technology for staff.

Commenting on the results as a whole, Ashley added: “Following the refinancing we are seeing the business transform into a modern multimedia organisation.

“We are excited about the future for the business and confident of delivering on our strategic objectives of growing an engaged audience base and returning our business to top line growth.”

The report also heralds the prospect of further office closures over the coming year as part of an ongoing strategy to reduce the company’s property portfolio.

It reveals that during 2014, JP disposed of 23 freehold properties and removed itself from 15 leases.

“Overall we have reduced the total number of properties within the portfolio from 188 at the start of the review in 2012 to 150 at the end of 2014, with nearly half of all staf either having relocated or having seen investment in their environment,” says the report.

“Although a great deal of progress has been made during 2014, the projects will continue as the portfolio is rationalised further with an expectation of the overall number of properties eventually falling below 100.”

18 comments

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  • March 25, 2015 at 10:02 am
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    Happy days for JP employees as they’re sure to get the bonus their efforts in contributing to these increased profits so richly deserves. Then there’s the job security of working for a profitable outfit and the respect that cascades down the hierarchy for their sterling work. All this and it’s springtime – hello clouds, hello sky, etc.

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  • March 25, 2015 at 10:39 am
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    “…..we are excited…” — that dreaded word again! Keep your heads down, JP journos, they’ll be coming to get ya anytime soon.

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  • March 25, 2015 at 10:51 am
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    One could hardly call the Daily Express a prestigious title any more. Its page one splashes are invariably about “more bad weather on the way” or something on the lines of an amazing new cure for arthritis. This on a day when the rest of the media is detailing some big international news that’s broken.
    It’s circulation has been declining for decades and it is clearly on the ropes, only kept going for respectability purposes, I’d guess.
    The JP suits must be writing for shareholders who know absolutely nothing about newspapers to be getting away with such tosh in their reports.

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  • March 25, 2015 at 11:04 am
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    Not sure the 90 printing staff who were told yesterday that they are losing their jobs in Broughton will see this as great news.

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  • March 25, 2015 at 11:22 am
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    No doubt JP staff at Dinnington will be dancing around a prematurely erected maypole to have these prestigious titles (!) in their print portfolio. But before the Champagne corks start popping – what future for Desmond’s team (printers, subs) at Broughton?

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  • March 25, 2015 at 11:29 am
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    With the closing of Broughton Printers, what will happen to the Preston based JP staff that are also based in the same building. Are they staying put or going to be relocated when it closes ?

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  • March 25, 2015 at 11:43 am
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    One thing I’ve learned in more than one industry, is that the company’s success has no bearing on job security any more, so new business isn’t worth celebrating like it used to be. I’m sure someone’s Cayman Islands portfolio will be looking a bit healthier though.

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  • March 25, 2015 at 11:50 am
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    Shares dropped 3% on this news, revenues can’t keep dropping. Cutting costs and pushing up prices isn’t the way to go. Readers want quality stories and pictures, not user generated junk

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  • March 25, 2015 at 12:29 pm
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    Are these papers just filling spare capacity as JP is having to print fewer and fewer copies of their own titles?

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  • March 25, 2015 at 12:31 pm
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    2.8 per cent increase bought with savage job losses. Well done Ashers.. A lot of ex JP workers are applauding from the job centre.

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  • March 25, 2015 at 2:10 pm
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    I have just subbed a news report pitted with grammatical errors, containing three libels and with oodles of spelling mistakes. That’s the Newsroom of the Future! I don’t think I’ll bother changing them.

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  • March 25, 2015 at 2:13 pm
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    The above report was, of course, submitted by an ‘educated’ member of the public without a clue about journalism. Rising profits, falling standards….

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  • March 25, 2015 at 5:01 pm
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    Can JP reassure employees that they and not shareholders will benefit from this. Maybe employ some more staff to improve their semi-pro weeklies? Or give a bonus? I thought not!!!

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  • March 25, 2015 at 9:43 pm
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    I see the paper based in the same building finally mentioned the job losses at 7.31pm after earlier in the day reporting the GOOD NEWS of JP profits rise without mentioning job losses at local firm

    Journalism eh?

    Maybe JP titles being printed elsewhere helped the decline

    Lamentable lack of transparency

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  • March 26, 2015 at 9:06 pm
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    @Lamentable
    C’mon mate. It ain’t old ’til it’s told.

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  • March 28, 2015 at 10:28 pm
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    Is there a figure on how much JP paid for this new contract?
    – When you take into account the outlay in setting up the Dinnington Press in the first place, along with the dwindling sales of its own titles, I would imagine JP would’ve been desperate to get it’s shinny new Press back to running at full capacity.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they’ve paid well over the odd’s – They do have previous.

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  • April 1, 2015 at 1:35 pm
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    Wish they’d spare a thought for their own printed editions. They do, in fairness do a good print job. Shame about the content.

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