Resilient performance despite difficult trading environment, with one week less trading versus 2016
Strong management of the cost base limited the decline in adjusted operating profit to 9.4% or £6.5 million despite revenue falling by 14.6% or £54.7 million. Adjusted operating margin increased by 1.2 percentage points to 19.6%. Like for like(2) revenue fell by 9.3% or £32.9 million.
Continued growth in digital revenue
Like for like publishing digital revenue grew by 5.9% to £41.4 million with digital display and transactional revenue growing by 18.0%. This was partially offset by digital classified revenue falling by 23.9%.
Structural cost savings target increased to £20 million
We delivered structural cost savings of £10 million in the period. These were ahead of target and we have increased our structural cost savings target for the year to £20 million, £5 million ahead of the £15 million target.
Decline in pension deficit by £59.2 million
The IAS19 pension deficit fell by £59.2 million to £406.8 million (£336.1 million net of deferred tax). The Group paid £20.6 million into the defined benefit pension schemes in the period.
Net debt reduced to £22.4 million and continued financial flexibility
Adjusted EBITDA of £72.9 million and reduction in net debt(4) of £8.1 million to £22.4 million. The Group continues to have financial flexibility and during the period made the final payment of £68.3 million on the private placement loan notes utilising cash and a £30 million drawing on the £110 million bank facility.
Interim dividend up 7.1% to 2.25 pence per share
We remain committed to our progressive dividend policy and the Board expects dividends to increase by at least 5% per annum. The interim dividend has been increased by 7.1% from 2.10 pence to 2.25 pence per share.
Share buyback progressing
The Group acquired 4.2 million shares for £4.6 million during the period under the £10 million share buyback programme announced in August 2016 bringing the total amount purchased to 6.7 million shares for £6.9 million.