JOHNSTON Press plc (‘the group’), a leading multi-media group in the UK, provides its trading update (unaudited) for the 52 weeks to 30 December 2017.
The board confirms that (subject to audit) the adjusted EBITDA is in line with the board’s expectations. Cash balances at 30 December were £25m.
Total revenues from continuing operations for the 52 week period fell five per cent, year on year.
Digital revenue from continuing operations, excluding classified categories, was up 14 per cent, while digital revenue including classified categories was up three per cent.
Digital audience growth remains a strategic priority, and the number of unique users grew to an average of 25.4m unique browsers per month, a 13 per cent increase on last year, with 108m average page views per month, 19 per cent up on 2016.
In line with our strategy of focusing on cities and towns with the largest digital growth opportunity, web traffic (i.e. page views) on The Belfast Newsletter, was up 48 per cent; Yorkshire Evening Post (Leeds) was up 47 per cent with the Sheffield Star up 42 per cent and The Edinburgh News up 39 per cent, year on year.
Newspaper circulation revenue from continuing operations was up two per cent year on year, benefiting from the full year effect of the i newspaper, acquired in April 2016.
Total publishing revenues (total advertising and newspaper circulation revenue) from continuing operations were down six per cent year on year, 13 per cent excluding the i newspaper.
Update on the i
The i newspaper had an exceptional year, taking some 20 per cent market share of the ‘quality’ weekday market. Newspaper circulation revenue was up 19 per cent, and advertising was up 26 per cent in the second half, on a like for like basis.*
The relaunch of the weekend edition in September 2017 saw an average increase in circulation in the three months post relaunch of 9k copies, to 272k. Digital audiences averaged over 1.4m unique browsers per month, up 45 per cent year on year.
Contract printing revenue was up four per cent year on year with the benefits of winning new printing contracts (including the Daily Mail and Metro) outweighing circulation decline in some existing contract print titles.
Strategic review of financing options
Last year, the group announced it had commenced a strategic review to assess the financing options available to the group in relation to its £220m 8.625 per cent senior secured notes which become due for repayment on 1 June 2019.
The board subsequently announced that it was approaching its largest bondholders regarding the formation of an ad hoc committee of bondholders, which was formed in October.
Discussions with advisers to the ad hoc committee are in progress. Any proposal that results from these discussions will remain subject to negotiation and the consent of relevant stakeholders, and there can be no certainty that a formal proposal will be forthcoming.
Ashley Highfield, CEO of Johnston Press, said: “We remained focused on delivering the priorities outlined to shareholders, amidst an extremely challenging trading environment. The i has delivered a very strong performance in our first full year of ownership. A slowing down of top line decline is encouraging while further growth in our audiences and digital revenues, underpinned by additional cost reduction, enabled us to maintain profit margins.
“In 2018, alongside our strategic review of financing options, we will continue to invest in the business, including recruiting 32 journalists funded by the BBC, and a further 21 editorial staff and ten specialist digital sales staff as we seek to accelerate digital growth further while reinforcing our offering of quality, trusted content across all platforms.”
Notes to editors:
Adjusted EBITDA is operating profit before depreciation and exceptional items.
Continuing operations includes the i newspaper from 10 April 2016, and excludes East Midlands titles disposed of in January 2017, from 2016 and 2017.
Rory Godson / Peter Ogden / John Elliott
020 7250 1446
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