NCJ Media owners Trinity Mirror have reported a robust performance in 2014 in which the decline in revenue shortened to 4.1% to £636.3m.
The publishers of The Journal, The Chronicle and The Sunday Sun said good progress was being made on strategic initiatives, allowing the group to deliver solid profits and cash flow from print and strong growth in digital audience and revenue.
Revenue fell by 4.1% compared to a decline of 6.0% for 2013 and revenue trends improved as the business progressed through the first half, with a more challenging market impacting performance in the second half.
Print advertising revenue fell by 14.1% in the second half compared to a decline of 8.8% in the first half.
Adjusted operating profit was £105.5m in the period, down from £108m, while pre-tax profits reached £102.3m, a small increase on the previous period’s £101.3m.
Cost reduction measures during the year led to the group incurring £14m in restructuring charges and it also reported a net non-recurring credit of £15.2m including a £27.5m share of the gain from the PA’s disposal of MeteoGroup, and a provision of £12m for dealing with and resolving civil claims in relation to phone hacking.
The group said it continues to co-operate with the Metropolitan Police Service in respect of Operation Elveden (the investigation relating to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials) and Operation Golding (the investigation into alleged phone hacking).
Looking ahead, revenue trends in 2015 are expected to be adversely impacted by the closure of a number of regional titles in the South in December 2014 and a change to the newsprint supply agreement for the Independent and i from January 2015.
In the first two months of the year digital audience and revenue growth has remained strong with digital audience figures hitting 100 million unique users for the first time in January 2015.
Simon Fox, chief executive, Trinity Mirror plc, said: “I am pleased with the financial and strategic progress we have made in 2014.
“We continue to invest across the group in people and technology and this is delivering significant growth in digital audience and revenue.
“Whilst print has remained challenging, our continued focus on efficiency and cost management has resulted in another year of profit growth and strong cash flow which has enabled us to significantly reduce net debt and propose a final dividend for 2014, the first since 2008.
“I am grateful to all our colleagues for their contribution to this performance.
“At the end of the year I implemented a new streamlined management structure and I am confident that this will accelerate our focus on delivering sustainable growth in revenue and profit.
“The board expects performance for 2015 to be in line with expectations.”