East Anglia: Archant sets out its strategies at AGM

Archant chairman Richard Jewson

Archant chairman Richard Jewson - Credit: Archant

THE annual general meeting of media group Archant, whose titles include the EADT, yesterday heard about the strategies being pursued to transform the business, its trading performance in 2012 and the impact on the media industry of the Leveson proposals.

Chairman Richard Jewson told an audience of 120 at the John Innes Conference Centre near Norwich: “Archant faces a time of considerable challenge, in common with the regional media generally, as it continues to transform its business model.

“But its board remains confident in the ability of the business to adapt to the continuously changing environment in which it operates.”

Archant chief executive Adrian Jeakings said: “Looking forwards it is clear that the UK economy remains fragile and there is still considerable uncertainty.

“The papers and broadcast media are full of talk of a possible third dip recession and any improvement in the short to medium term is unlikely to be material. In consequence we must drive any improvements in the performance of the Group through our own endeavours. We cannot count on the economy to help us.

“Underlying trading has not got any easier in 2013 but we are seeing the benefit of our investments, particularly in digital where first quarter revenue was nearly 22% higher than last year and local display advertising where we have growth in many areas, and we continue to out-perform our peer companies.

“As you would expect, costs and cash remain closely managed and I am delighted to report that at the end of the first quarter operating profit was on budget and significantly ahead of last year.”

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Mr Jeakings, who is currently president of the Newspaper Society which represents the regional press, said the Leveson report had “completely exonerated” the regional press from malpractice and recommended the Government to support a strong and independent local press.

“Unfortunately the Government’s promises to help the regional press have so far been empty and there are no concrete signs of any change,” he added.

Group finance director Brian McCarthy addressed the detail of a dispute with HM Revenue & Customs over possible payments of Corporation Tax and interest dating back to 2003.

In the light of this, the company has decided to suspend dividend payments until the outcome of the tax dispute is known.