Bristol Post upturn 'fragile': Possible VAT on newspapers makes forecasting difficult

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The Independent Online
THE BRISTOL Evening Post regional newspaper group warned yesterday that the improvement in its advertising revenue was 'fragile' and circulation of its two main papers remained under pressure, writes Gail Counsell.

The imminence of the Budget and the possible imposition of VAT on newspapers also made it difficult to foresee trends over the next six months, it added.

The company said advertising sales had been erratic at the start of the current half year but had since steadied.

While profits continue to improve, sales are under pressure. Compared with the same period last year total sales fell 2.7 per cent to pounds 30m. However, pre-tax profits in the six months to 30 September rose by a fifth to pounds 3.1m and earnings per share were up from 7.27p to 8.47p.

The company, which has been undergoing a wide-ranging rationalisation, said it had made progress towards deciding on its Bristol printing needs but was not yet able to announce a decision. If it opts to go for a replacement press, accelerated depreciation on plant of pounds 1.1m will be charged against this year's profits.

So far this year continuing rationalisation costs have been offset by the sale of a further 35,000 shares in the Reuter news agency.

The interim dividend is 4.25p (4p) and the shares rose 5p to 360p.