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News Letter owner Johnston Press racks up £300m loss

By Holly Williams

The owner of the i and News Letter newspapers has slumped into the red with annual losses of more than £300m. Johnston Press, which also publishes the Scotsman and 200 local titles, revealed the impact of tumbling print advertising revenues and £344m of writedowns on the value of its newspapers as it swung to a pre-tax loss of £300.3m last year against bottom-line profits of £2.2m in 2015.

But the group, led by chief executive Ashley Highfield, insisted there were some shoots of a recovery, with underlying revenues rebounding from a 5% decrease in the third quarter to a 1% rise in the final three months of last year.

It added: "Against an industry backdrop which remains challenging, we delivered improved trends in the fourth quarter which have continued into 2017."

The full-year figures laid bare the impact of a tough year for publishers, with Johnston blaming the Brexit vote fallout for compounding already difficult trading.

The group also reiterated that the pound's slump since the EU referendum had sent its costs soaring for imported paper and ink.

It said last year's hefty writedowns - £223.9m of which was reported in August and a further £120.4m at the year-end - reflected the "current trading performance" of the group.

Revenues slumped 8% to £222.7m last year, with total advertising revenues hit the hardest - tumbling 17.7%.

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