Johnston Press urges looser merger rules

The competition Commission has "misjudged" how the local newspaper market works, according to Johnston Press, leading to no practical easing in media ownership rules despite the Government's attempts to relax regulations.

Tim Bowdler, the chief executive, said yesterday there was still uncertainty over how competition regulators were planning to treat changes in newspaper ownership. Recent Competition Commission conclusions were "unhelpful".

Johnston Press has been a leading player in local newspaper consolidation, buying Regional Independent Media (RIM) in 2002 for £560m. It now has 14.4 per cent of the local newspaper market.

"It is the opinion of Johnston Press that the [Competition] Commission has tended to take an overly narrow view of market definition which considerably underestimates the extent to which local newspapers are subject to competition from alternative media. We believe they have also misjudged the ease of new market entry and underestimated its impact on publisher behaviour," Mr Bowdler said.

His comments were echoed at the company's annual results by Johnston Press's chairman, Roger Parry, who said: "Plurality of editorial voice does not automatically flow from plurality of ownership."

However, Mr Bowdler said that, over time, Johnston Press was confident the regulators would "reach a clearer understanding of the ways in which our markets operate".

Excluding the acquisition of RIM in April 2002, operating profits at Johnston Press rose 8.8 per cent. Pre-tax profits rose from £97.1m in 2002 to £105.7m. The operating profit for RIM under the first 37 weeks of Johnston Press ownership in 2002 was £34.1m, rising to £57.3m for the whole of 2003.

Combining RIM for both years, the group announced headline figures including a 15 per cent increase in sales to £491.8m, with pre-tax profits up 38 per cent to £128m. Earnings per share at the company were up 21 per cent at 32.36p. Mr Bowdler said advertising sales at its portfolio of local newspapers and related internet sites rose 3 per cent in the first half of 2003, rising to 4.6 per cent in the second half. Cashflow and earnings per share would continue to grow, he said, as circulations and advertising also rose.

"Given that the new financial year has started well, with advertising revenues growing at a similar level to the second half of 2003, the board is optimistic that we will be able to achieve this growth in 2004 and beyond," said Mr Bowdler, who invested half his bonus in buying 15,848 Johnston Press shares.

The shares closed yesterday at 510.25p, up 1.25p.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate