Johnston’s results were complicated by the impact of the wholesale restructuring at the regional media group, which has relaunched 227 titles and switched five daily newspapers to weekly frequency, alongside a big push into digital and mobile channels.

Like-for-like sales in the six months to the end of June fell 9.8% to £144.3m, but like-for-like operating profit increased by 4.3% to £28.6m.

However, Johnston also filed a massive £194.5m non-cash impairment charge against the value of its titles and wrote down the value of its print assets by £57.9m, resulting in a bottom line loss of £248.7m.

Advertising revenues fell by 13.6%, although chief executive Ashley Highfield described the advertising market as “increasingly stable” and said the rate of decline had “narrowed to 6.3% during June and July 2013”. Circulation revenues for its revamped portfolio also showed “early signs of improvement”, and the overall rate of circulation decline has reduced to just 0.7%.

Digital revenues jumped 13.3%, and Johnston has grown its web and mobile reach to 11.8m unique users a month. The firm does not disclose digital’s contribution to operating profit.

Costs were reduced by £24.3m, ahead of plan, and the group has managed to get its pension deficit down to under £100m.

Separately, it received a £10m exceptional gain due to News International’s cancellation of its contract printing arrangement with Johnston, after NI took previously outsourced print back in-house following the closure of the News of the World.

This went towards reducing net debt, which was down £55.3m to £306.4m. Johnston has received a total of £40m in compensation for the cancellation of the NI deal.

The absence of the NI work reduced turnover by £7.1m and operating profits by £3m.

Johnston’s contract printing sales for external clients were £6.1m during the period, out of total contract print revenues of £27m. It has secured a new £600,000 contract with an unnamed customer as part of its push to replace the lost NI volume, “but at lower margins” than it enjoyed with NI.

A spokeswoman told PrintWeek that Johnston was “monitoring” News International’s recently-announced hybrid print project, but had no plans at present to make a similar move itself.

The group’s share price rose by 0.5p to 16.5p in early trading (52-week high 19p, low 5.2p).