The boss of the company, which owns the Sentinel, the Journal and the Newsletter, says it’s achieved the first increase in ‘underlying operating profit’ in seven years – in 2013 it increased by 2.5 per cent from £53m to £54.3m.
Johnston Press presented its annual results in the City of London this morning (Friday, March 28).
In a statement Ashley Highfield said: “Underlying operating profit is a term used to describe the actual reflection of a company’s profit but may exclude one-time charges or infrequent events.
“In our case we have adjusted for the cancellation of print contracts with News International and the closure of some free titles, and excluded revenues and costs from the five daily to weekly titles, so that we can better compare 2013’s performance with prior years.”
He said local papers are continuing to see strong growth in digital revenues – up 19.4 per cent in the full year and 25.3 per cent in the second half.
Mr Highfield also said that ‘digtial display advertising’ was up 30.3 per cent for the year.
He said the company’s also managed to reduce its debt by £17.3m from £319.3m to £302m.
Despite these positive indicators advertising revenues in 2013 generally declined 6.4 per cent overall but a significant improvement from July meant advertising revenues for the second half of the year declined 4.4 per cent year on year.
He stated: “Today’s presentation of our annual results is evidence that 2013 was an important year for the turnaround of JP.
“Our overall audience continues to grow strongly – with our digital audience up 47.7 per cent year on year, reaching a monthly average of 13.3m unique users in the last audited period covering July to December 2013 – and this continued engagement with and relevance to our communities provides us with the best opportunity to succeed in 2014 and beyond.
“Any company navigating the journey from traditional media to a multi-platform world has to work through restructuring and inevitable redundancy programmes. We are no different.
“Careful control of costs resulted in operating costs reduced by £33.8m from £271.7m to £237.9m.
“Clearly the redundancy programme contributed to savings and will continue to do so through 2014.
“I’d like to express my thanks to all those employees leaving the company for their professionalism and contributions to the business.
“Some have already left, a significant number leave us this week and more will be leaving over the coming months. This process is part of our transformation into a leaner, stronger company and I wish everyone who is leaving us the very best for your futures.
“We still face challenging times – not least our refinancing negotiations which I hope will be complete soon – but 2013 was a key year in our transformation and has set us fair for further growth and profitability. I look forward to working with you all for a fruitful 2014.”