Reach plc says:
Improved like-for-like revenue trend
Trading during the period has been steady and remains in line with our expectations.
On a like-for-like basis, revenue during the five months ended 24 November 2019 fell by 4.4%, an improvement on the 6.6% like-for-like decline in the comparable period in 2018. Within like-for-like revenue, Print fell by 7.3% and Digital grew by 14.0%, with the prior year comparable period showing a fall of 8.2% and an increase of 9.3% respectively.
As previously anticipated, good progress has been made with a number of digital initiatives over the second half of the year. We continue to be encouraged by strong audience growth across our portfolio of national and regional sites. This has provided us with the confidence to further extend our network of digital regional brands into new territories, with at least seven new 'Live' launches planned for 2020 and approximately 50 journalists to be recruited.
Strong cash flow reduces net debt
Cash generation continued strongly during the period and the Company's balance sheet remains robust. In light of this favourable ongoing performance, we now expect to show a net positive cash balance at the year end.
Outlook for the full year
The Board remains confident that the full-year performance will meet its expectations.
Update on review of JPI Media's assets
Further to the Company's announcement on 18 July 2019, the Board of Reach confirms that it is no longer in active discussions about acquiring certain of JPI Media's assets. Merger and acquisition opportunities which would accelerate the Company's strategy will continue to be reviewed on a regular and disciplined basis.
Jim Mullen, Chief Executive Officer of Reach plc, commented: "Since joining the business in August, I've been impressed by the strength of Reach's national and regional brands, the quality of our content and the wide geographic distribution of our products through both print and digital channels. I've also been encouraged by the wealth of talented and inspirational staff working in the business.
"We have made good financial and operational progress during the period, including an improved like-for-like revenue trend and a further reduction in net debt. The Reach brands continue to have real relevance at both a national and local level, as is demonstrated by our considerable audience growth. We are working to complement our audience reach with a significant depth of customer insight and data that will allow us to build an intelligent, relevant and trusted content business for the long term."