Johnston Press has reported a sharp rise in underlying pre-tax profit and a slowing decline in revenues, and says it is getting closer to reaching a "digital tipping-point" where new revenues replace old ones.

The Edinburgh-based business raised £360million last year to reduce its financing costs and had reduced debt from £302m to £185m by the end of 2014.

It has reported an underlying pre-tax profit up from £8.9m to £29.9m, with operating profit up 2.8per cent on the same basis to £55.5m.

Total underlying revenues were down 4.4per cent to £265.9m, following declines of 5.2per cent and 7.4per cent in the previous two years.

The group's statutory pre-tax loss was £23.9m, a fraction of the previous year's £291.4m loss.

One-off costs of £53.8m included further writedowns of publishing titles and other assets, business restructuring, and refinancing costs of £9m.

The key metric of digital revenues was up 20per cent to £28.8m, representing 17.4per cent of advertising revenues, up from 13.8per cent, while digital audience was up 36per cent to an average 16.7m (from 12.3m).

Johnston improved its operating margin by 1.5 points to 20.9per cent after reducing costs by £13.8m net of its digital investment.

Its three Edinburgh titles led by The Scotsman shed over 40 jobs late last year in a move to one-team working, and relocated from the headquarters building at Holyrood to the top floor of an office block just outside the centre. Johnston said it had shrunk its property footprint from 188 to 150 locations since 2012, and expected that to fall below 100.

Print advertising declined 8.7per cent to £136.9m and newspaper sales revenue was down 4.8per cent at £77.9m.

Chairman Ian Russell said: "We are working hard to deliver a return to revenue growth and have reached the 'digital tipping point' on 290 occasions in 2014. It is essential that we drive further digital growth while continuing to protect our print-based revenues."

The company defines the tipping-point as "where 2014 revenue exceeds 2013 revenue within a category, within a publishing unit, within a given month".

The first eight weeks of 2015 saw advertising revenues down 4.1per cent.

Mr Russell said the group had "continued to innovate and to maintain our place at the forefront of the changes in our sector".

He added: "We plan to seek to take advantage of not only that innovation, but also more favourable conditions in some of our markets and the beneficial platform that the refinancing has given us to improve our performance in 2015."

Johnston shares, at 25p a year ago, dropped to 17p in May when the 6.5 for 1 rights issue was unveiled at 3p a share. Then in November it carried out a 1 for 50 consolidation, giving a rights issue equivalent price of 150p a share. Yesterday the stock fell 9.5p to 160p.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said: "We are excited about the future for the business and confident of delivering on our strategic objectives of growing an engaged audience base and returning our business to top line growth."