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July 24, 2015

Johnston Press predicts advertising growth this year for first time in a decade

By William Turvill

Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield has told staff he expects the company to “return to advertising growth for the first time in a decade” this year.

In an email to staff this afternoon, Highfield also said that the regional publisher is to “put the advertising customer at the heart of everything we do”.

Last week, JP announced that its half-year revenue to 4 July was expected to have fallen by 5 per cent year on year after a “number of national and local advertisers chose to reduce or delay their spend in both print and online” around the time of the election.

After the announcement – made ahead of the results, which are expected on 11 August to “manage City expectation” – shares in the company dropped from 142p per share on Monday last week to 105.63 by last Friday.

Highfield said in his internal email, seen by Press Gazette, that this share price drop would “inevitably” happen, but described it as a “quite dramatic over-reaction”.

He said: “Now the dust has settled we should start to see the share price pick up, reflecting the City’s sentiment that Johnston Press remains a positive growth story, with a clear plan and vision to get back to growth.

“What this has highlighted is the need for us to continue to deliver the changes we are driving across the business, at pace, but in the right way – and we have positioned ourselves to do it. Our purpose and strategy remain constant: we will get back to growth through great content and product innovation, especially online, particularly on mobile. We must focus on increasing engagement and reach: new readers and new advertisers, increasingly in new towns and cities.  

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“We will put the advertising customer at the heart of everything we do. Only by giving them what they need (long term solutions to their marketing needs) and not what we can sell this week (e.g. short term features) will we grow the business. Building a strong forward order book is key to this.”

Highfield added: “Thank you for your commitment to driving our business forward. I hope you are able to take some time out during the summer for a well-earned rest. Autumn will bring an exciting new chapter for this business and I hope and expect to see us return to advertising growth for the first time in a decade, by the end of the year.”

In March this year, Johnston Press reported full-year profits up 2.8 per cent to £55.5m. Underlying revenue fell by 4.4 per cent to £265.9m.

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