Johnston Press reports that full-year profits would be down by around 5.5% and half year profits by around 5% after it saw a fall in advertising revenues and circulation sales in the 26 weeks to 4 July 2015. The company said advertisers chose to hold off and slash spending across print and online amid the uncertainty caused by the election. The share price falls by more than 16%. CEO Highfield:
Trading conditions in the first half of 2015 have undoubtedly been challenging, especially in the period around the general election – a time when there was also a high degree of uncertainty in the wider market.
Johnston Press reaches a deal to buy the i newspaper from ESI Media for £24m. Highfield:
This is a transformational acquisition for Johnston Press and an important step towards delivering our long-term strategy. i is a highly-regarded newspaper with a clear market position and a loyal readership. By joining with Johnston Press the combined circulation will be equal to 9% of national daily circulation, making us the fourth-largest player in the market. This enhanced reach represents a significant growth opportunity for Johnston Press in terms of national print and digital advertising revenue. It also rebalances our revenues towards less volatile circulation revenues. With our considerable digital experience the combination of Johnston Press and i will also allow us to grow digital audiences and revenues through the creation of inews.co.uk.
Johnston Press reports total revenue for 2015 was down by 6.8% from £260m in 2014 to £242.3m last year. However, profits increased by 22.6% to £31.5m by reducing costs to £191.7m from £205.3m in 2014. CEO Highfield says the group hopes to sell some brands and some of its key assets. However, he said he “could not rule out” closing some titles. Debt is down by £14.8m to £179.4m from £194.2m in 2014, with interest payments reduced by almost £10m to £19.1m. The number of people reached through Johnston’s digital titles was up by 40.7% to 22.6 million, with digital advertising revenue rising by 12.4% to £30.6m.
We are a plc and our primary objective is to keep the business moving forward … we have to make profits. We are all on the same side here, which is try to get the business back to growth and get the long-standing debt off our shoulders. The tough trading conditions have already been highlighted by DMGT and Trinity Mirror. We are being prudent in not anticipating it getting better and we are going to make sure we are cutting our cloth appropriately.
Highfield also says Johnston has filled all but two of 50 roles for i for when it takes control of the title on 10 April, filling the roles from The Independent within two weeks.
Johnston Press completes the £24m purchase of i newspaper, and prints its first edition. The paper will be available in Northern Ireland for the first time. CEO Highfield:
i is a highly regarded newspaper with a clear market position and a loyal readership. By joining with Johnston Press the combined circulation will be equal to 9 per cent of national daily circulation, making us the fourth largest player in the market. This enhanced reach represents a significant growth opportunity for Johnston Press in terms of national print and advertising revenue. It also rebalances our revenues towards less volatile circulation revenues. With our considerable digital experience the combination of Johnston Press and i will also allow us to grow digital audiences and revenues through the creation of inews.co.uk.
Johnston Press reports that group revenues were down 13.7 per cent during the 17 weeks to 30 April, reflecting a 14.4 per cent fall in the first quarter and an “improved rate of decline of 11.5 per cent in April”. The group said i daily print sales peaked at 297,849 for the month, a rise of 7 per cent over the peaks seen in March 2016, its website, inews.co.uk, reached 638,000 unique users. Advertising revenues for the period were down 16.9 per cent, while digital revenues were down 5.7 per cent in the first quarter but up 4.5 per cent for April. CEO Highfield:
Following the completion of the i acquisition, we continue to explore the disposal of certain assets, with a view to deleveraging the balance sheet and further reducing financing costs.
Johnston Press announces it is selling the Isle of Man Examiner, Isle of Man Courier, Manx Independent and www.iomtoday.co.im. to Tindle Newspapers for £4.25m. Johnston Press CEO Highfield:
This disposal is further progress in executing our divestment strategy and allows the group to realise immediate value from our Isle of Man assets. I would like to thank the staff of our Isle of Man business for their loyalty and dedication over the years and we wish them well for a successful future.
Buying a profitable local weekly set-up such as the Isle of Man trio is certainly a departure from our early days when, without much cash, we mostly bought papers that were in trouble, or we had to launch them ourselves. We are most grateful to Ashley Highfield and his colleagues for all their assistance in bringing about this agreement…Everyone at Tindle Newspapers, will make [the staff] all very welcome just as soon as we are able to do so.
Johnson Press announces it is taking a£183.6 million impairment charge (£216.9 million gross, net of £40.3 million in deferred tax), lowering by nearly half the value of the company. The action sends the company’s stock down over 18 percent. The Company also announces revenue drop of 9.7 percent in the second quarter, with ad revenue falling 15 percent. Net debt grew to £209.4 million due to the acquisition of the i in April for £22.0 million. Highfield:
The market continues to be challenging and uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the Brexit negotiations has caused further softness in some segments of the advertising market, in June and July. Nevertheless, we are focused on our strategy of increasing overall audiences, maximising opportunities for the i, maintaining tight cost control and rebalancing our portfolio. In that respect, we are nearing completion of the disposal of our Isle of Man newspaper group for £4.25 million and are well advanced in negotiations for further divestments.
Johnston Press wins a five-year contract to print the Daily Mail across the south west of the UK. Monday to Saturday issues of Daily Mail will be printed at the company’s print plant in Portsmouth. The plant also prints southern editions of Metro. Highfield:
We are delighted to win this new business on top of the Metro contract just recently won and this further confirms our printing services division as one of the best in the country. This latest long term contract will give the staff a real boost and their ability to deliver such prestigious titles against very tough competition is a great reflection on the business.
The company reports a £300.3m pre-tax loss for 2016, compared to a £2.2m pre-tax profit the year before. Total advertising revenue is down 17.7% year on year to £122.6m, driven by a 9.5% fall in print ad revenue. The fall in print advertising income was not offset by digital ad revenue, which remains flat at £18.6m. Sales volumes for i was up 5% year on year, while circulation revenue was up 20% year-on-year. Highfield:
Despite an industry wide backdrop of significant downward pressure on revenues, the actions we have taken to pilot the business through this rapidly-changing market and create the conditions from which to create growth are starting to bear fruit: circulation figures of key titles are improving, the i has bucked the trend of declining national newspaper sales and our progressive editorial and sales models are starting to transform our regional businesses. While we can expect to see continued pressure on traditional print revenue streams, we have seen digital return to growth in Q1 2017, with better margin products, and will see growth from our investment in the i from both the newspaper and website. Further, we will start to see the benefits of our restructured sales teams and product roll out.