Regional publisher Midland News Association furloughed 29% of its staff in the first UK lockdown and said it does not expect to recover financially to pre-Covid levels until 2022.
The MNA, which publishes England’s largest paid-for regional daily newspaper the Express and Star with a circulation of 31,477, revealed in its latest company accounts that it used the Government’s job retention scheme for more than 230 employees in the first few months of lockdown.
Press Gazette reported in May that the publisher had put 90 jobs at risk of redundancy as a result of the pandemic, including 14 in editorial.
Although the decline in sales was less than originally feared at the start of lockdown in March, the publisher said in a statement dated July and published just before Christmas that the ongoing impact means its 2020 financial results will be “significantly reduced” as a result.
“The company expects the impact of the Covid-19 [pandemic] will continue to be felt during 2021 with the operations recovering to pre-Covid-19 levels in 2022,” it said.
The hit from Covid-19 came after turnover fell by 10% to £26m in 2019 due to the industry-wide decline in advertising and circulation revenues, leading to a total of 27 compulsory and voluntary redundancies across that year.
The company spent £478,000 in severance payments in 2019 – down 44% from £866,000 the year before.
It had an average of 390 employees in 2019, down from 439 in 2018.
The MNA reported a loss before tax of £2.1m in 2019 compared to £1.8m in 2018. Before exceptional items, pension payments, depreciation and amortisation this was a pre-tax profit of £2.1m in 2019 and £2.8m the year before.
Its net assets stood at £33.5m at the end of December 2019.
Cash resources were maintained during the first lockdown by management of debtors and creditors and the deferral of HMRC payments.
Confidentiality laws mean there is no public list of companies using the Covid-19 job retention scheme, leaving transparency up to individual companies.
Press Gazette understands the MNA and other regional publishers continue to use the scheme to a smaller extent as disruption from the pandemic continues.