Edinburgh-based newspaper group Johnston Press has reported a 10.6 per cent drop in advertising revenue across print and digital this year, attributing the downturn in part to last year's government spending cuts.

The decline in ad revenue is slowing however, according to a statement from the company today, with that 10.6 per cent drop reflecting a 7.8 per cent decline in the first five weeks of the second quarter compared with an 11.6 per cent decline over the first quarter.

Display advertising, the company's largest ad category, also slowed, with a year‑on‑year decline of 7.9 per cent for the first quarter replaced by 5.5 per cent year-on-year growth in Q2. The turnaround was attributed in part however to Q2 benefiting from the move of Easter from March to April. 

Employment ad revenue declined most, with a 30 per cent year-on-year drop blamed on public sector spending cuts last year. The company said today it expects the impact of decreases in public sector activity to reduce throughout the year.

The statement acknowledges the company is facing "significantly" higher newsprint costs, but claims it will mitigate the increase "and other inflationary pressures" through cost management and proposed year‑on‑year savings in the region of £5 million. It added that it was encouraged by the successful launch of a new online Business Directory and Customer Review offering at the start of March.

According to today's report, net debt was £388.7 million at the end of April 2011. A £20 million reduction in facilities planned for June 2012 has been brought forward to 28 April 2011, which the company claims will save around £0.5m in interest costs this year.

A preliminary financial report published in March announced a six per cent drop in underlying revenue for the company in 2010, from £423.7 million to £398.1 million. Pre-tax profit for the year fell by 29.6 per cent from £43.3 million to £30.5 million.

It was also announced in March that the company's chief executive John Fry will step down by March 2012.

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