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GANNETT, MEDIA GENERAL REPORT Q1 REVENUE DECLINES USA Today owner says compared to 2008, newspaper ads down 34.1%.

In the hey-it-could-have-been-worse category, both Gannett and Media General reported their 2009 first-quarter results last week, with both reporting net losses (though not as far down as had been anticipated).

Both companies, which have newspapers as well as broadcast TV stations, reported declines across the board. By the numbers:

*Gannett Co. Inc.: First-quarter net income at this McLean, Va.-based multimedia giant was down 59.6 percent, to $77.4 million, when compared to the same 13 weeks last year, with a comparable decline in earnings per diluted share, which were reported at 34 cents this year and 84 cents last year.

The company reported an overall decline of 17.8 percent in operating revenue, to $1.4 billion, with its publishing group's ad revenue off 34.1 percent, to $722.8 million. Revenue at its new digital group, which didn't exist last year and now includes controlling interests in CareerBuilder.com and ShopLocal.com, was reported at $143.5 million, just slightly more than the company's broadcast group, which reported $143.2 million (a decline of 15.7 percent when compared to last year).

The 34.1 percent ad revenue decline reflects about 4.3 percent impact in the year-over-year decline of the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the British pound (Gannett owns 17 dailies and 200 non-dailies in the United Kingdom).

Classified ad revenue declined 46-1/2 percent when comparing the first quarter of 2008 to this year's first quarter, while national was down 30.8 percent and retail was off 23.4 percent. Employment classified dropped 62 percent in the quarter, real estate classified revenue declined 50.6 percent and automotive classified declined 39.2 percent.

At the company's USA Today, ad revenue was off 33-1/2 percent, with telecommunications, pharmaceutical and advocacy growing and entertainment, travel and financial declining.

Newsprint consumption at the company's papers dropped 29.9 percent for the quarter, though prices increased 20.4 percent, giving the company a net expense decline of 15.6 percent.

*Media General Inc.: Though total publishing division ad revenue declined 25.2 percent for the quarter, the company's overall fiscal picture wasn't that much more grim than the first quarter of 2008: its net loss for this year's quarter was $21.3 million, down only slightly compared to last year's first-quarter loss of $20.3 million. Net loss per diluted share this year was 96 cents, as opposed to its first-quarter net loss last year of 92 cents.

The Richmond, Va.-based multimedia company said that its classified ad revenue was down 38.6 percent when compared to the same quarter last year, because of "shortfalls in all markets." Retail ad revenue declined 17.5 percent and national ad revenue was off 12.2 percent.

At the company's metro newspapers in Richmond, Tampa, Fla., and Winston-Salem, N.C., classified employment revenue was down 67.1 percent, classified real estate revenue declined 52.6 percent and classified automotive was off 33.4 percent.

Media General said that revenue at its Interactive Media Division -- which includes the web sites of not only its 22 daily newspapers and more than 250 weeklies, but also its 19 network-affiliated TV stations and its DealTaker.com -- was up 24-1/2 percent, but that the division operated at a loss of $1.1 million (which was better than last year's first-quarter divisional loss of $2.7 million). It said that its local on-line revenue was up 31 percent when compared to last year's quarter but that classified dropped 36.2 percent and national was down 7.2 percent.

The company said its consumption of newsprint declined 25.8 percent in the quarter, while the average price per ton increased $135, or 25.1 percent, when compared to last year.

Well shut my mouth: I predicted last week that the share price of Gannett (and by implication, Media General) would get hammered because of the poor first-quarter results -- wrong. Gannett, which had gained 47.1 percent week-over-week earlier in the month, was up a penny on Friday, to $3.76. Media General, which has steadily risen since its 52-week low of $1.35 on March 3, was up 3.1 percent for the week, at $2.67. The overall NewsInc. Index was up almost 7-3/4 percent for the week, to $130.14 (as compared to the S&P500, which was up 1-1/2 percent).
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Title Annotation:Gannett Company Inc.
Publication:NewsInc
Article Type:Financial report
Date:Apr 20, 2009
Words:733
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