Ad slump hammers Johnston Press

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The Independent Online

The regional newspaper group, Johnston Press, warned yesterday that advertising revenues fell 6.7 per cent between July and the end of November after recruitment advertising tumbled.

The Edinburgh-based owner of more than 300 newspapers - including the Yorkshire Post and Biggleswade Chronicle - revealed that jobs advertising was down almost 23 per cent on last year. The fall would have been steeper still without a 29 per cent increase in online advertising revenues.

Johnston blamed the sharp decline on lacklustre manufacturing, services and public sector advertising, and did not foresee any improvement until the second half of next year at the earliest. The gloomy update sent the shares 20 lower to 457p and analysts reaching for their red pens to trim profits forecasts for this year and next.

Last year, Johnston saw ad revenues climb by almost 6 per cant and pre-tax profits jump 18 per cent to £150.6m. Since then, newspaper publishers and other media groups have struggled with a wintry advertising climate , particularly in classifieds.

Johnston also said that it is keeping an eye on Daily Mail & General Trust's sale of its Northcliffe regional newspaper business. But Stuart Patterson, Johnston's finance director, said: "We are selective and will only make acquisitions if we're confident we can add value for our shareholders."

Revenues from newspapers sales improved over the five months after higher cover prices offset a modest decline in circulation.