Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Johnston Press’s pre-tax profits plunge by nearly 50%

Scotsman and Yorkshire Post owner cuts staff by nearly 180 as ad revenue declines by 10% in first half of the year

Regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press’s pre-tax profits plunged in the first half to £13.8m, with the publisher cutting almost 180 staff as ad revenue dropped by 10%.

Johnston Press, owner of titles including the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, reported pre-tax profits down 47.5% year on year to £13.8m in the 26 weeks to 2 July.

The company said that it cut staff numbers by 179 in the first half to 5,049, as total revenues fell 7.5% to £191.8m.

Johnston Press’s results paint a mixed picture for the company, which said that in July and early August its advertising declined by a slightly improved 8.1%.

While total ad revenues fell by 10% in the first half – mainly due to a contining decline in employment advertising – national display ad revenues grew by 2.8% year on year.

Digital revenues, which fell by 5% overall in the first half, returned to growth in May and have continued to improve. The first quarter saw digital revenues fall by 9.7%, in the second quarter the drop was just 1.5% and there was a rise of 6.8% in July and early August.

The company said that newspaper sales revenues remained “resilient”; they were down just 1% in the first half to £48m despite circulation of daily titles falling 7.8% and weeklies 6.8%.

Total costs were cut by £8.3m year on year, despite newsprint prices rising £4.2m, which helped the publisher to report an operating profit of £32.6m despite the tough market conditions. This represents a 25% year-on-year fall.

Johnston Press reduced net debt by ££16m to £370m.

“We remain cautious about the advertising outlook for the second half of the year,” said Johnston Press’s outgoing chief executive, John Fry. “The board has confidence that, in the absence of a further significant deterioration in the UK economy, the outcome for the group in 2011 will be broadly in line with current expectations.”

The company also announced deals with web property company Zoopla and technology company Nimble Commerce to launch an online voucher business in the autumn.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds