Archant profits fall but publisher is confident of weathering economic storm

THE chairman of Archant said moves to transform the business have helped the company weather the economic storm and will see improved performances in the coming months.

Group chairman Richard Jewson’s words come as results for the first half of the year showed that profits fell by �4.4million.

Interim results for the Norwich-based firm, which produces four daily newspapers and about 60 weekly titles, including the Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard, showed that total revenue in the period had declined �2.8million (4.0 per cent) to �67.3million.

Operating profit before amortisation of intangible assets and exceptional items was �2.6million – down �4.4million.

Mr Jewson said performance of the business had been adversely affected by reductions in newspaper print advertising, which had been driven by economic factors including government cutbacks and steep increases in input prices.

Operating costs also increased by �1.6million, including �1.1million for newsprint.

Taking exceptional items and amortisation into account, Archant posted a �1.9million pre-tax loss. Newspaper and printing turnover, excluding acquisitions, was down 7.2 per cent at �44.9million due principally to reductions in print advertising revenues which fell 13.2 per cent.

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The results also showed that the number of employees engaged in the newspaper business had reduced by 9.9 per cent in the period.

However, magazine revenues increased 2.8 per cent to �22.3million with property advertising revenues up 11.9 per cent and subscriptions revenue up 1.4 per cent.

Total digital revenues grew 3.3 per cent to �3.1million with digital display revenues increasing 10.9 per cent. Unique visitors to websites have also grown by more than a third, to an average of 3.6million per month, in part attributed to the increasing use of social media.

Business developments during the period included launching daily deals site tickles.co.uk and 40Winks.co.uk, a group buying site for short breaks and the relaunch of the homes24 online property site working in partnership with Zoopla.

Mr Jewson said: “We are transforming our traditional businesses for the changing world and developing new businesses, taking full advantage of changes in technology.

“We are not waiting for the economy to improve to take action, and provided there is no further deterioration in our markets, we expect better profits in the second half to achieve our forecast for this year and to achieve growth in profits in 2012.

“The continuing success of our strategy to grow paid-for circulation volumes is evi-denced by the growth in circulation revenues (up one per cent) and, notably, three of our four daily titles and almost all of our paid for weekly titles outside London achieving paid circulation volume growth in the first half of the year.”

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