Regional publisher Johnston Press has unveiled its annual results for 2017, showing revenues declined at a slower rate than the previous year.
With the purchase of the i newspaper in April 2016 boosting both advertising and circulation revenues, overall adjusted revenues fell by 4.5pc in 2017 compared with 6pc the previous year.
The adjusted figures, showing overall annual revenues of £201.2m, take account of the sale of 13 weekly newspapers in East Anglia and the East Midlands to Iliffe Media in January 2017, which accounted for £9.9m in lost revenues.
Circulation revenue across the group rose by 2.7pc year-on-year, although it was down 4.9pc when the i is excluded from the comparison.
Adjusted digital revenues were up 13pc at £20m while average monthly unique users across the group’s online portfolio also rose by 13pc.
Operating costs at the group were reduced by £12.1m, contributing to a pre-tax profit of £14.2m.
Today’s report says the trading environment remains “challenging” and predicts continued pressure on revenues as well as the requirement for cost savings during 2018.
“Against this difficult backdrop we are focused on maintaining our strong margins, driving additional growth from i and realising further operational and financial synergies. During 2018 we will continue to selectively invest in the business, with a focus on digital, journalists, and content generation,” it stated.
Commenting on the results, chief executive Ashley Highfield, pictured, said: “Our vision remains constant – to be at the heart of our communities, providing accurate, relevant and timely news and information – free of proprietorial influence.
“And we continue to deliver on this, despite 2017 proving to be another tough year for the sector: We more than doubled profits at the i, with circulation revenue up 20pc and advertising revenue up 27pc.
“Across our regional portfolio of titles national print advertising tracked in line with prior year in the first quarter of 2018, with advertisers starting to increase spend in regional print.
“This trend is driven by a somewhat stronger overall advertising market, our ability to precisely target audiences using ‘big data’, and improving sentiment towards quality print publishers in the wake of the Fake News and social media trust concerns.
“Classified advertising remains weak, but is now a significantly smaller portion of the group accounting for just 13pc of revenues in the quarter, following our investment in digital and the i.
“Whilst operationally the business is performing well in challenging markets, addressing the Group’s capital structure remains a key priority. The Strategic Review of financing options is ongoing and discussions with our various stakeholders are progressing. We will update on this matter as we progress through 2018.”