Johnston to keep Irish titles despite poor recovery
LOCAL newspaper owner Johnston Press suffered a 25pc fall in Irish advertising revenue last year but yesterday insisted the sale of its Irish titles was not being "contemplated".
London-quoted Johnston is one of the UK's largest regional newspaper owners and has 14 titles in the Republic in Ireland, including the 'Limerick Leader', 'Kilkenny People' and 'Leinster Leader'.
The UK company was forced to abandon the sale of its Irish assets a year ago when an auction failed to yield significantly high bids, but later went on to offload one paper, the 'Tallaght Echo'.
In its full-year results statement issued yesterday, Johnston made its position on further Irish disposals crystal clear, telling the market "no further sales are being contemplated".
The decision to hold on to the titles comes despite the Irish market's failure to repeat the tentative recovery seen in Johnston's UK business. Yesterday's results showed that while the like-for-like rate of ad revenue decline in the UK slowed from 26.6pc in the first quarter of 2009 to 10.6pc in the final quarter, the rate of decline in Ireland only slowed from 25.3pc to 19.8pc over the period.
"In particular, the improvements in property and motors seen in the UK were not seen in the Republic of Ireland," Johnston added in yesterday's announcement.
The publisher told analysts the Republic has continued to lag behind the UK's progress in the past nine weeks, with ad revenue down more than 20pc here compared to far more muted falls across the water.
The 2009 year saw Johnston slash significant costs from the Irish operation, including the closure of a printing press in Kilkenny and a number of redundancies, as part of a £55m group-wide cost-cutting programme. Johnston yesterday insisted the cost-cutting agenda would continue in 2010, but targeted savings are just £10m.