Southern Newspapers advances

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SOUTHERN Newspapers, which saw off four potential bidders last year, has shown the benefits of a review of the business by lifting operating profits 85 per cent to pounds 7.2m in the year to 27 June.

The gains were not reflected at the pre-tax level, because last year Southern included nearly pounds 6m of profits from the sale of investments. Indeed, pre-tax profits fell from pounds 8.61m to pounds 7.01m and earnings slipped from 26.8p to 20.1p. A final dividend of 8.25p makes a total of 11.25p (10.5p).

James Sexton, the chief executive of the Southampton-based group, said it had reduced its workforce by 13 per cent, revamped its printing and was launching six new weekly titles. It had disposed of most peripheral activities, but retained holdings in Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers and some radio stations.