Johnston Press plc, publisher of the Burnley Express, Leader-Times Newspapers and the Clitheroe Advertiser, and one of the leading community media groups in the country, has announced that underlying operating profit increased by 2.5% from £53m. to £54.3m. last year, the first increase in underlying operating profit for seven years.
Digital revenues were up 19.4% in the full year and 25.3% in the second half of 2013. In the strategically important area of digital display advertising, the company saw revenue growth of 30.3% for the period, and 44.6% during the second half of the year.
In December 2013 the company achieved an aggregate audience of 21.1m, an increase of 17.1% against December 2012. Digital audience growth for December was up 47.7% with unique users reaching 13.3m in December 2013.
Advertising revenues declined 6.4% on an underlying basis and unadjusted advertising revenues were down 10% but significant improvements in the second half reduced this decline to 4.4% in those six months.
A statutory loss before tax of £286.8m was due to significant exceptional items, largely the impairment of assets announced at the half year and restructuring costs.
The company’s net debt was down £17.3m to £302m.
Chief Executive Ashley Highfield said: “We are delighted to see a return to underlying operating profit growth for the first time in seven years, with underlying operating profits in 2013 increasing by 2.5% on 2012.
“Our digital growth remains strong, with significantly increasing audiences coming to our websites in 2013 and into 2014. Along with slowing declines in print advertising revenues, and a stable circulation revenue decline rate, these are clear indications of good progress during the year in the implementation of our strategy for growth.”