Sentinel owner says pre-tax profits up

Ashley Highfield (left).
Ashley Highfield (left).

The owner of the Sentinel, Newsletter and Journal says its underlying profit before tax increased by 114.3 per cent from £8.3m to £17.8m during the first half of 2015 despite a slow down in general trading in the second quarter.

Ashley Highfield, Chief Executive of Johnston Press, which also publishes The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, said the improvement reflected a debt refinancing initiative undertaken by the company last year.

Announcing the company’s results for the 26 weeks to July 4, 2015, he said: “We’re now really able to see the positive effect last year’s refinancing is starting to have on the business.

“Paying a significantly reduced level of interest against our debt means much healthier profits – painting a far more accurate picture of how this business is performing.”

Other highlights of the interim results were that digital audiences grew by over 20 per cent to an average monthly audience of 19.9m in H1 2015 (2014: 16.7m).

Digital revenues were up 17.5 per cent for the period, from £14.1m to £16.5m now representing 20.5 per cent of advertising revenues (H1 2014: 16.6 per cent)

Total underlying revenues of £128.9m (H1 2014: £135.1m) reflected a decline of 4.6 per cent for the period (H1 2014: (4.3)%)

Cost savings of £7.6m (gross) offset revenue declines, and funded digital investment of £2.6m in the period

There was also continued debt reduction with net debt reduced to £183.3m (2014 FY: £194.2m)