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Regional slump rubs shine off Reach's Express and Star purchase boost

These are the first results to be published since the Express and Star titles were brought into its fold back in February

Reach (formerly known as Trinity Mirror) continues to weather a severe downturn in its regional publishing businesses, posting a statutory operating loss of £107.3m over the first half of the year, owing to a non-cash impairment charge amounting to £150m blamed on a 'more challenging than expected outlook'.

The heavy loss came despite a 10.6% jump in group revenue to £353.8m as the publisher brings home the first fruits of its acquisition of Express & Star.

The financial fillip came in Reach’s half yearly report for the 26 weeks to 1 July, the first results to be published since the Express and Star titles were brought into its fold back in February.

This new-found scale failed to mask a 7.2% fall in like-for-like revenues. However, it did highlight the importance of the acquisition to Reach’s bottom line as print revenues fell a further 9.3%; failing to offset a 6% increase in digital revenue.

This diverging performance was driven primarily by an 11.5% rise in digital display and transactional revenue which overcame a 19.8% fall in digital classified revenue.

Reach chief executive Simon Fox said: “We have delivered a positive financial performance in what remains a difficult trading environment for the industry, in particular the regional businesses. The benefit of improved performance from national print advertising coupled with further cost mitigation will support profits over the year despite a further increase in newsprint prices for the second half.

“We have started the process of integrating Express and Star in order to accelerate the benefits that our combined scale will deliver and have a clear strategy which fully reflects the changing shape of the group.”

Elsewhere Reach welcomed a reduction in its pension deficit of £80.6m to £297m and the delivery of structural cost savings amounting to £9m over the period.