Beaten-Down Lee Enterprises Stock Suddenly Soars

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Lee Enterprises stock, which has been trading for small change for months, surged above $1 a share Wednesday morning, capping three consecutive days of big — and unexplained — price spikes, and bigger trading volume.

Just 90 minutes into trading, Lee shares were at $1.05, up 19 cents, or 22%, from their opening. The stock has been as high as $1.20 Wednesday.

Lee, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol LEE, hadn?t traded above $1 a share since Nov. 28, 2008.

Through March and April the stock traded in a range of just 30 cents to 40 cents, and it has been as low as 24 cents. Lee had been warned by the exchange that its stock could be delisted because it had traded below $1 a share for more than 30 consecutive sessions. But the Big Board has temporarily suspended enforcement of that rule.

Since Monday, the trading in Lee stock has been furious with volumes that have been three to four times normal.

In Wednesday?s early trading, the volume reached more than a million shares. In an average trading session in the past three months, just 463,000 shares normally change hands. Individual trades have been big in this stock run-up. At about 10:30 EDT Wednesday, for instance, a single trade involved 99,900 shares.

There?s been no apparent reason for the price and volume spikes. No one has yet filed a Securities and Exchange Commission document disclosing big changes in their holdings of the Davenport, Iowa, publisher of community newspapers.

UPDATE: Dan Hayes, Lee’s vice president of communications, declined to comment on the price movement.

Despite the price surge, Lee stock — like the stock of every other publicly traded newspaper company — still trades well below its historical prices. Since May 2008, Lee shares are down nearly 90% from their high of $8.09 a share.

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