Talks with buyer of brands

Johnston Press selling assets as income slides

Scotland on Sunday scotsmanJohnston Press, owner of The Scotsman, the Falkirk Herald and the Yorkshire Post, continues to see a decline in group revenue and said it is looking to sell a number of undisclosed brands that do not fit its plans.

The London-based company, which announced earlier this month that it is seeking a further 32 job cuts in Scotland, said revenue fell 7% over the 52 weeks to 2 January with print advertising income down 12%. Digital revenue rose by the same volume.

The board confirmed that underlying EBITDA and net debt are in line with expectations. Full year results will be announced on 22 March.

Digital audience growth remains a priority, it said, and the number of unique users has grown to 22.6m in December 2015.

National display revenues (print and digital) were up 3% year on year driven by a 99% increase in revenue from 1XL, our digital advertising exchange partnership, while local display revenues were down 7%. The group increased focus on larger SME customers, with high spending customers in 2015 increasing their spend by 17% year on year during 2015.

Media Sales Centre transaction revenues (including Public Notices, Births, Marriages and Deaths, and Central Display) were up 1% year on year, while former classified categories of Employment, Properties and Motors were down 13%, 17% and 11% respectively.

Contract printing revenues were flat year on year, the benefits of winning the printing contracts for the Daily and Sunday Express and Star, being offset by circulation decline in existing contract titles.

Circulation revenues were down 7% year on year, while circulation volume decline rates improved by 1.5% for daily titles and 2.6% for weekly titles from the start of 2015 to the end.

The group announced an internal management restructuring on 1 December,  removing a layer of regional management to enable it to “prioritise investment in growth markets while delivering a consistent advertising solution to both National and SME display advertisers across the portfolio”.

Editorial was brought under a single Editor in Chief, to bring a consistent approach to delivering content to audiences online, on mobile, via social media and in print.

As part of the group’s portfolio review, a number of brands have been identified that are not part of its long-term future, as they fall outside its selected markets, or do not match the audience focus, or do not offer the levels of digital growth sought by the group. The company said it is exploring the sale of these assets to “identified parties”.

If it achieves the “appropriate value” for the assets,  the proceeds will be used to fund on-going investment in preferred markets and to further reduce the group’s debt.

It says it has “clear plans to drive revenue and make further cost reductions” in 2016, with the focus on display advertising products (both local and national), and on growing digital revenues in key economic-growth areas and with key audiences with more disposable income.

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