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Herald owner posts 20% rise in profits

NEWSQUEST (Herald & Times), owner of The Herald, Evening Times and Sunday Herald, has posted a 19.6% rise in pre-tax profit to £8.7 million as a large fall in pensions costs more than offset a drop in revenue.

The company, an arm of US media giant Gannett, saw turnover fall 2.7% to £56.9m in the year to December 25, 2011, despite a 12.5% rise in internet advertising.

Managing director Tim Blott said: "We saw a continuing improvement in our internet revenues in 2011, both through our highly successful online s1 brand and our newspaper websites. Our magazine division also had a good year.

"Print revenues continue to be under pressure during the current recession but a recent restructure of our newspaper advertising department will create greater focus on the strengths of our core titles and should deliver greater benefit to advertisers and readers.

"Our print plant at Cambuslang faces a very competitive contract printing market as well as declining print runs and paginations."

Average staff numbers fell from 597 in 2010 to 537 in 2011, in part due to some activities moving to other divisions. Staff wages and salaries dropped from £18.8m to £17.1m. Pension costs tumbled from £4.3m to £1.4m as the company closed its defined benefit pension scheme to future accrual from March 31, 2011.

The directors' report states: "Recovery in the economy is expected to have a positive impact on revenues, although there remains uncertainty about the timing and extent of growth."

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