LONDON — Despite overall gains during the last 12 months, Huntsworth on Tuesday reported a 7% year-over-year decline in its communications revenue during 2017.

The communications division, which includes Grayling, Red and specialist financial agency Citigate Dewe Rogerson, reported revenues of £77.6m (2016: £89.3m), a decline of 7% on a like-for-like basis, and operating profit of £7.0m (2016: £5.5m), an improvement of 24% on a like-for-like basis.

The year followed an even more difficult 2016, during which Huntsworth was hit financially by closing loss making practices in Grayling.

During the year, however, Grayling has "responded well" to the prior year restructuring and has returned to profitability, the company said in announcing its annual earnings results.

Overall, Grayling reported revenues of £40.5 million, lower by 11% on a like-for- like basis, with operating profit of £1.1m against a prior year loss of £0.8m.

Red had a good year, with revenue growth of 3% and operating profit growth of 4% "despite difficult marketplace and client churn largely driven by procurement-led tenders," Huntsworth reported. Citigate Dewe Rogerson reported revenues of £22.2m (2016: £22.1 million) and operating profit of £3.5m (2016: £3.6m).

Overall, however, the year was up for Huntsworth, which reported revenue growth 9% to £197m and headline profit before tax growth of 52% to £24.4m. On a like-for-like basis, that represents growth of 4% and 2,% respectively.

CEO Paul Taaffe credits the larger growth to the company's streamling, which included an increased focus on healthcare services. Huntsworth bolstered its healthcare offering in July with the acquisition of The Creative Engagement Group (TCEG), a collection of three creative agencies focusing on the healthcare sector.

Huntsworth now has two distinct areas of focus: healthcare, which is made up of three divisions, medical, marketing, and immersive; and its communications division which accounts for 21% of the company's profits.

"As part of the strategic development of the group and its increased focus on healthcare we took the decision to streamline how we organise ourselves, providing shareholders with a better understanding of the group and offering clients easier access to multiple services when required," Taaffe said, adding the company will continue concentrating on growing its healthcare division.

"Healthcare remains the primary focus of Huntsworth. Fast-moving innovation in healthcare treatments, along with growing global demand for new drugs to help ageing populations, are driving a complex market place that requires a combination of higher margin consultancy services and more effective marketing," Taaffe said.