Media group Archant reports 20% increase in annual profit

Archant chief executive Jeff Henry.

Archant chief executive Jeff Henry. - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Community media group Archant is to pay its first dividend since 2012 after seeing annual profits rise by 20% to £9.6million last year.

The company, which publishes 130 newspapers and magazines, including the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star, said revenue fell by 1.9% compared with 2014, its best relative performance since 2007, in difficult industry conditions.

Cash generation remained strong, with Archant ending 2015 with net cash balances of £12.7m. It will pay a final dividend of 5p per share.

Chief executive Jeff Henry said: “Our goal for 2015 was making our core business robust – you can’t build on foundations which are crumbling. We had to make sure the core businesses on which we are based were thriving and growing, and that’s what we can now demonstrate.”

Mr Henry said 2016 would be about “embracing digital”, and that he remained confident Archant could achieve the goal of being recognised as the best local media company in the country by 2017.

To do this, the company would need to be profitable and increasing revenues, with engaged staff and customers, and delivering innovative products “which meet the needs of this decade and the decade to come”, he said.

Magazine circulation increased at more than half of Archant’s titles in 2015, while newspaper circulation revenues showed small year-on-year growth, the company said.

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Mr Henry said talks were also progressing with HM Revenue & Customs to resolve the company’s outstanding tax bill, adding conclusion of the matter “would be better for all parties.”

Archant also made changes to its property estate in 2015, moving its London newspaper teams from Ilford to Barking while its current office in Lower Brook Street in Ipswich was sold, with a new office at Portman House, at the junction of Princes Street and Portman Road, now in development and due to open in late summer.