Johnston Press plc issues the following trading update relating to the second half of the financial year ending 31 December 2002 and ahead of the Group’s preliminary results announcement scheduled for 19 March 2003.
As envisaged in the Chief Executive’s Half Year Statement of 28 August 2002, Johnston Press has continued to perform satisfactorily in the second half. Once again, this has demonstrated the resilient nature of our business despite the climate of economic uncertainty that has prevailed over recent months, coupled with our continued emphasis on the tight management of costs.
Advertising revenue growth in the second half has continued, as expected, at modest levels in both the existing Johnston Press businesses and the operations recently acquired with Regional Independent Media. For the 5 months to 30 November 2002, like-for-like growth in advertising revenues over the same period in 2001 was 2.8% in the continuing businesses and 1.1% in the RIM companies. This compares with growth rates of 1.2% and 1.1% respectively in the first half.
In both the continuing and acquired businesses, recruitment advertising achieved growth over the prior year period as did all other categories with the sole exception of motors advertising in the acquired businesses.
Overall, circulation of our weekly titles continues to show modest growth, whilst our total daily circulation remains in slight decline, in line with general market trends; actions are being taken to address this. In particular, we will be assisted by the improved press performance now being experienced following completion of our major press development programme and the roll-out of computer-to-plate technology.
The integration of RIM is progressing well and we are very confident of delivering the anticipated £9 million of annualised cost savings in 2003. As previously indicated, further exceptional costs are expected in the second half in respect of the ongoing reorganisation of RIM, primarily due to the closure of the Harrogate print works. This is in addition to exceptional costs of £3.7 million in the first half.
The outlook for the year to 31 December 2002 is for profit to be at the top of the range of current market estimates. Whilst no early change in the trading environment is expected, the Board is confident of the Company’s ability to perform satisfactorily in 2003, assisted by continued close management of costs, an expected further reduction in the cost of newsprint and a first full year contribution from RIM.
Tim Bowdler, Chief Executive or
Stuart Paterson, Finance Director
Johnston Press plc Tel: 0131 225 3361
Richard Oldworth/Suzanne Dunne
Buchanan Communications Tel: 020 7466 5000