Regional publisher Newsquest paid £15.2m to buy the Romanes Media Group in May, the company’s latest accounts have revealed.
The US-owned publisher’s annual results for 2014 reveal for the first time how much the company paid for the independent group, which comprised one daily title and 28 weekly titles in Scotland, Berkshire and Northern Ireland.
The accounts also show that Newsquest made pre-tax profits of £58.65m in 2014, up from £58.48m in 2013, while the number of employees was cut by 228 to save £5.2m in staff costs.
Newsquest staff numbers were cut to 3,997 last year, although the overall number of editorial staff fell by only 17 during the period.
The results show the publisher’s operating profit for 2014 was £51.4m, compared to £52.8m the previous year, while revenues were down 3.2pc to £279.3m.
The Romanes Media Group, which Newsquest purchased in May, had a turnover of £18m for the year to September 2014 and an operating profit of £2.9m.
Since its takeover of the Romanes group, Newsquest has announced a series of job cuts at the newly-acquired papers, particularly at Berkshire titles the Reading Chronicle, Slough Observer and Bracknell News.
A number of senior executives have lost their jobs, production roles in Berkshire have been transferred to existing Newsquest production hubs, and staff photographer jobs have been lost.
NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: “These figures show up the thin tales of hardship spun by local Newsquest bean counters for what they really are. It is journalists and other low paid workers who have paid the price for these gains – with their jobs and with consecutive years of pay freezes.
“Meanwhile quality suffers but readers are not only expected to fill the papers with their own free content but then buy it back. It’s simply not a sustainable strategy.”
Chris Morley, Newsquest NUJ group coordinator added: “This is still a very profitable company whose employees are on their knees with year after endless year without a pay rise.
“This has to stop in 2016 and staff must share in the one-sided gain the company is reaping from massive productivity increases coming through the grim conveyor belt of job losses.”
The accounts also show that Newsquest’s highest paid director, who is believed to be chief executive Henry Faure Walker, received total remuneration of £401,505 compared to £610,458 in 2013, when the role was held by Paul Davidson.
In total, the directors were paid more than £1m in 2014 including salaries, taxable benefits, performance-related payments and pension contributions, which was up from £928,000 in 2013.
The NUJ claimed that performance-related pay to Newsquest’s directors had increased from £268,000 in 2013 to 338,000 in 2014.
But a source close to Newsquest said the payments in 2013 related to just two directors compared to three in 2014, and said average director pay had decreased by 24pc year-on-year.