Johnston Press cuts losses, but warns of cost savings

Johnston Press CEO Ashley Highfield

Johnston Press — the embattled owner of The Scotsman, the i newspaper, the Yorkshire Post and about 200 local newspapers and websites — said its 2017 revenue fell 9.5% to £201.6m due partly to the sale of Midlands and East Anglia titles.

Statutory loss before tax was reduced to £95 million from £300.7 million in 2016.

Total advertising revenue, combining print and digital, fell 18.3% to £100.2 million.

“The trading environment remains challenging, notwithstanding early signs of some improvement in the national print advertising market,” said Johnston Press.

“Comparatives do get harder, and we expect to see continued pressure on revenues, and the requirement for cost savings.

“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.”

Johnston Press CEO Ashley Highfield said: “We more than doubled profits at the i, with circulation revenue up 20% and advertising revenue up 27% …

“We grew our digital traffic across the group by 19% and our digital audiences reached an all time high of 25.4 million.

“We posted total adjusted revenue up 1.8% year on year, excluding classifieds, which in combination with maintaining operational excellence and reducing costs, achieved profits in line with expectations.

“The first quarter of 2018 has seen us deliver increased adjusted EBITDA year on year, driven by the i’s continued strong performance (especially the relaunched Saturday edition, up 4% year on year in newspaper sales) and our strategy of focusing on our largest cities and titles.

“We are pleased with the acceleration in growth from the i’s website which, having delivered sustained growth in 2017, has ramped up further in the first quarter of this year (with unique users up 89% year on year) …

“Classified advertising remains weak, but is now a significantly smaller portion of the group accounting for just 13% 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.”