Johnston Press H1 revenue falls 10% to £93m

Johnston Press — the debt-laden owner of The Scotsman, the i newspaper, the Yorkshire Post and about 200 local newspapers and websites — said on Wednesday its revenue fell 10% to £93 million in the 26 weeks to June 30 but statutory operating profit rose 50% to £7.4 million.

Johnston Press CEO David King said the group is continuing to explore its options for the refinancing or restructuring of its debt.

“There are two sets of issues affecting Johnston Press,” said King.

“The first is the group’s historical debts, including its pension obligations, which continue to weigh on our balance sheet.

“The second is the tough market conditions affecting the performance of our newspapers and websites.

“However, our resilient performance allowed us to generate an operating profit of £7.4m in the period, up from £4.9m in H1 2017.

“The strong performance of the i demonstrates that it is possible to grow a newspaper brand, despite the prevailing headwinds.

“The i grew its circulation revenues by 17% and its advertising revenues by 20% compared to H1 2017.

“The digital audience for grew to 4.2m in June, up from 1.3m in December last year.

“The market backdrop for regional/local newspapers is extremely difficult, as evidenced by the 15% drop in our adjusted advertising revenues from H1 2017.

“We have continued to make progress growing digital audiences to a record 27.3m average unique users per month.

“However, the continued challenges posed by Google and Facebook, seen most recently through algorithm and news feed changes, has contributed to total digital revenue decline, while balance sheet constraints has restricted the group’s ability to invest, and counter these effects.

“We will engage with the Cairncross Review into the future of high quality journalism with a view to helping address the challenges faced by local news organisations in monetising its content.

“As part of the strategic review, the group continues to explore its options for the refinancing or restructuring of the group’s debt but, as yet, no decisions have been made nor agreements reached.

“We will provide an update as soon as possible.”