Suffolk: Archant in strong position when economy recovers

RICHARD Jewson, chairman of Archant, publisher of The Star, expressed confidence in the future as the company published its interim statement today, highlighting growing circulations, online audience, cash generation and its increasing investment in areas of potential growth.

Mr Jewson announced headline turnover at �66.5m, down �0.8m (1.3%), with operating profit before amortisation of intangible assets and exceptional items at �1.9m, down 0.7m. The group operating loss was �0.9m, lower than 2011 (�1.1m loss).

He said: “Our strategy of driving growth in our key markets, maintaining cost efficiencies and continuing to grow revenue streams through investment in new business, is producing results, albeit against strong headwinds.

“Our core business is cash generative, circulations are growing and we are recording industry-leading sales performances. Our financial position is strong and a new banking agreement taking us through to 2016 was signed in June.

“We are firm in the view that it is right to continue to increase expenditure in areas where we believe we can generate growth. We shall maintain the interim dividend at last year’s level of 6.4 pence per share,” said Mr Jewson.

Local display advertising grew by 3.7%, though total newspaper and printing turnover, at �43.2m was 1.5% lower, whilst newspaper circulation revenues also showed growth on a like-for-like basis. Magazine revenues were down by 0.7% at �23.3m with pressure on advertising revenues, down 3.2%, and circulation revenues, down 2.6%. Total digital revenues at �3.1m grew 1.3%.

In the first half of the year Archant spent �1m more than in 2011 in developing new businesses and is continuing to seek out new opportunities to complement its existing portfolio. In April, it launched, positioned to become a leading online wedding planning solution and in June invested in, a hyper-local street level social media site.

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Archant is also investing in digital media in its local business units including new software tools to improve advertising yield and audience engagement. Monthly average unique visitors to its websites averaged 4.5m per month to June, up 21.5% against the first half of 2011. In June, with growth of more than 80%, London websites broke the one million unique visitor mark and London24 is now the second largest news website in the capital.

Mr Jewson said: “We believe we are on the right track, though the absence of any real growth in the economy may hinder our progress. We have the right strategies, the right people and the right products for us to meet our customers’ changing expectations and deliver greater value to our shareholders. The economy will eventually recover and when it does we will be in a strong position to take advantage of it.”