Johnston Press plc issues the following trading update relating to the second half of the financial year ending 31 December 2003 and ahead of the Group's preliminary results announcement scheduled for 17 March 2004.
The Chief Executive's half-year statement of 27 August 2003 envisaged continued modest revenue growth in line with that achieved in the first six months of the year. In fact, advertising revenues have been stronger in the second half with like-for-like growth of 4.9% for the five months to 30 November 2003. This comprised 3.8% from those businesses owned prior to the Regional Independent Media (RIM) acquisition and 7.0% for the former RIM companies and compares with growth rates of 2.5% and 4.0% respectively in the first half.
During the period, property advertising has continued to perform strongly and recruitment advertising has witnessed improved growth levels. National display advertising has also performed better after a weak first half whilst the remaining advertising categories have continued broadly in line with results reported for the six months to 30 June.
The circulations of our weekly titles continue to achieve modest overall growth and are now into their eighth successive year of increase. The focus of attention on our daily titles has resulted in some improvements, although we have yet to see a reversal in the trend of modest decline.
We remain on track to deliver cost savings in 2003 of more than £10 million in respect of last year's acquisition of RIM. The business continues to perform well and progress remains ahead of our initial expectations.
In overall terms, the improvement in revenue growth, coupled with continuing good control of costs, is expected to result in profits for the year to 31 December 2003 being above current market expectations. Looking ahead, the Board does not expect any marked change in the trading environment and anticipates ongoing modest advertising revenue growth. When combined with stable newsprint prices, tight management of costs and further efficiency gains throughout the Group, this should lead to another year of satisfactory progress in 2004.
Johnston Press plc
Tim Bowdler, Chief Executive or
Stuart Paterson, Finance Director
Tel: 0131 225 3361
Richard Oldworth/Suzanne Brocks
Tel: 020 7466 5000