Wednesday 13 December 2017

Johnston blames woes on fall in ads and UK spending cuts

Peter Flanagan

MEDIA group Johnston Press blamed a decline in advertising and public spending cuts yesterday after reporting shrinking revenue and the resignation of the firm's chief executive.

The company, which owns a number of regional newspapers in Ireland including the 'Kilkenny People' and 'Leinster Leader', said John Fry would step down from his role as ceo by March next year.

The move follows annual results which showed a profit before tax of £16.5m (€19.2m) for the year compared with a loss of £113m in 2009. That profit, however, came on the back of revenue which declined by £30m to £398.1m.

The group was hammered by print advertising which declined by 7.1pc and public spending cuts which hit sales.

Advertising revenue in the Republic was down 19pc year on year to £11m. While the rate of decline slowed, it was a result of the comparison with a weak 2009 rather than any improvement in economic conditions

Net debt was reduced by £35.4m but is still at a crippling £386.7m. Chairman Ian Russell said debt reduction would remain the priority for the group.

"The pace and consistency of the economic recovery remains uncertain. Nevertheless, much of the group's work in 2010 was concentrated on improving systems and technology and making processes more efficient," he said.

The company, which borrowed heavily during the boom to finance acquisitions, has experienced a tough start to the year with advertising revenues down 11.4pc in the first nine weeks due to factors including weak recruitment advertising and the loss of government spending due to a freeze on UK public sector budgets.

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