Print advertising revenues continued to decline at Johnston Press last year as the publisher recorded a drop in pre-tax profits of almost a third.

According to preliminary results for 2010, released today, the company also recorded a six per cent drop in underlying revenue from £423.7 million to £398.1 million.

Pre-tax profit fell by 29.6 per cent from £43.3 million to £30.5 million.

Print advertising declined by 7.1 per cent, according to today's report, which cited public spending cut backs as impacting the sector in the fourth quarter. Digital advertising, on the other hand, grew by 4 per cent.

The group recorded a reduction in net debt by £35.4m to £386.7m. adding that the board's short term priority remains debt reduction.

According to the results, total advertising revenues for the first nine weeks of 2011 is already down 11.4 per cent on the previous year. Chairman Ian Russell said today that the company had experienced "a weaker start to 2011" than anticipated.

"Nevertheless, much of the Group's work in 2010 was concentrated on improving systems and technology and making processes more efficient.

"Given the Group's historic strengths and presence in the many communities it serves, our opportunity now is to be innovative in growing revenues both from traditional and new sources and capitalising on the economic recovery when it gathers pace."

The company also announced today that its chief executive John Fry is to step down within the next year.

Fry, who joined the company in January 2009 has notified the board of his intention to step down by March 2012, a statement from Johnston Press said.

The process of finding his successor has begun.

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