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Media General Q1 Loss Deepens On Revenue Slump.

With newspaper profits and revenues sharply down, Media General Inc. reported a loss of $20.3 million, or 91 cents a share, in the first quarter of 2007, down from a loss of $6.5 million or 27 cents a share last year.

Media General said its Q1 profit from its publishing division plunged 56.4%, on total revenues that were off 16.7% -- and newspaper ad revenue that fell 19.1%.

As in past months, Media General blamed the slump largely on results from Florida, where it publishes The Tampa Tribune and operates an NBC-affiliated television station.

Excluding Florida operations, Media General said, its newspaper profit was down 24% in the quarter.

"Comparing our Florida results to those of other states where we operate underscores the unfavorable impact of Florida on our overall results," said CEO Marshall N. Morton. "Revenues in Florida were down 29.5% in the first quarter. In contrast, revenues declined 11.1% in Virginia, 7.3% in North Carolina, and in the other states where we have publishing operations, namely Alabama and South Carolina, revenues were down 4.6%. Excluding Florida revenues from the division's first quarter, total publishing revenues decreased less than 10%.

On Monday, Media General offered buyout packages to about half of its 1,326 Tampa Bay employees.

The Florida slump even affected the previously fast-growing online businesses. Media General said its Interactve Media division revenue fell 3.3% to $7.7 million on lower classified revenue, which was down 15.4%, and lower sales in the so-called "advergaming" business.

Media General's loss from continuing operations was 44 cents a share, which includes a 47-cent per share charge related to the planned sale of five TV stations. The stations are expected to go for $100 million to $105 million, which will be used to draw down debt by $60 million to $65 million.

Media General, publisher of 25 dailies, said its classified advertising revenue in the first quarter were below last year's quarter by $13.9 million, or 27.9% -- mostly on losses in Tampa.

In its three metro markets -- where it publishes the Tribune, the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, and the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch -- real estate ad revenue plunged 40%, employment plummeted 37%, and automotive fell 34%.

Retail advertising revenue declined 10.8%, mostly on declines in Tampa in the department store, home furnishings, and home improvement categories, Media General said.

National ad revenue fell 21%, largely on lower spending in the telecommunications, travel and automotive categories in Tampa.

Circulation revenues decreased $900,000, or 5.1%.

Media General said its newsprint expenses fell 23.3% on lower costs and consumption.

EBITDA (income from continuing operations before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) fell in the first quarter to $14.2 million, compared with $23.9 million in the 2007 period.

Free cash flow, which is after-tax cash flow minus capital expenditures, was $559,000, up from a a deficit of $6.8 million in the year-ago period.

The Q1 results come as Media General fights a proxy battle with Harbinger Capital Partners, who hold an 18.7% stake in the company and are seeking to seat three representatives on the corporate board.

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Publication:Editor & Publisher
Article Type:Financial report
Date:Apr 17, 2008
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