Black Country printing firm Cradley Group has cut its pretax losses, but more jobs are to go.

In the first half to December 31 the red ink reduced to #567,000 from #858,000 a year earlier.

The operating loss was #397,000 on turnover down from #13.2 million to #12.8 million.

It follows improvements in the underlying profitability of both the group's Printing and Publishing divisions.

The company also announced further cost cutting measures, including a reduction in the workforce, and an agreement for the sale and leaseback of the group's main site.

The target is "to build a business with a cost base more suited to its new markets".

An exceptional reorganisation charge of approximately #600,000 is as a result expected to be incurred in the second half.

The Printing division reported a loss of #273,000 for the half year but this was after incurring a substantial bad debt totalling #250,000 ? occurring late in the period and fully provided in the figures ? and compared with losses of #307,000 for the comparable six months to December 31 2004 and #872,000 for the year to June 2005.

The group said the operating result before the bad debt provision was a loss of only #23,000.

The group's Publishing division had also made solid progress with a reduction in its operating loss to #124,000 in the half year from #888,000 seen in the last full year.

The traditional 'slow-down' which most elements of the printing industry suffers in January and February had been significantly deeper than expected this year, with competition for work placing continued pressure on margins as individual printers compete to fill press capacity.

However, the Cradley Heath-based group said it would continue concentrating on its core strengths in the printing division, mainly niche magazines.

Net borrowings amounted to #5.5 million at the end of 2005 and to stop that going higher the group said it had decided to sell its main site and lease it back. This will allow it to finance the next phase of restructuring.

Terms have been agreed for the proposed sale of the site to the Cradley Group Holdings Directors Pension Scheme for #2.44 million and for the company on completion to enter into a 12 year lease at an annual rent of #310,000, subject to review.

The sale of the site will also allow the group to repay other borrowings.

The board said it believed the printing industry would remain very competitive for the foreseeable future, exacerbated by major chronically loss-making competitors supported from outside the sector.

However the board said that, with substantial innovative work done to open new markets, the division could become a tightly run and profitable business.

This, together with the developments in the group's publishing operations, gave some degree of optimism for the future, said chairman John Wheatley.

There is no dividend.