February 3, 2017 / 9:42 AM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-Yorkshire Post publisher Johnston Press flags improved trading

(Recasts, adds shares, details)

Feb 3 (Reuters) - Johnston Press Plc, the publisher of the Scotsman, said trading towards the end of 2016 improved as it posted a 1 percent rise in fourth-quarter revenue aided by strong sales of its “i” and Yorkshire Post titles.

The 250-year-old company said signs of business confidence were improving as quarterly revenue returned to growth after contracting 5 percent in the previous quarter in the “immediate aftermath” of Britons’ June vote to leave the European Union.

The company said that strong circulation revenues from the “i” title has offset the decline in circulation revenue from other newspapers in its stable.

Johnston has over 200 titles across the country and acquired Independent Print’s “i” newspaper for 24 million pounds last year to tap into i’s growing circulation revenue and advertising base.

The newspaper industry has been hammered in recent years as advertisers have followed readers to online platforms, forcing print publishers such as Trinity Mirror and Daily Mail and General Trust to cut costs drastically.

Edinburgh-based Johnston has been focusing on particular regions and betting on its new national advertising network, 1XL, to return to revenue growth.

However, the company warned that it is seeing higher costs from imported paper and ink due to weakness in sterling after the Brexit vote.

Total revenue for the year to Dec. 31 was down 6 percent as the advertising squeeze continued, Johnston said.

Total print and digital advertising revenue, excluding classifieds, for the year was down 7 percent.

Analysts at Liberum, in a client note, said that Johnston Press has seen significant improvements in trends across the board in the fourth quarter.

The brokerage adds that the company has applied strict cost discipline. It has a “buy” rating on the stock.

Shares in the company were up 1.6 percent at 0933 GMT. (Reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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