By: Seth Sutel, AP Business Writer
(AP) Gannett Co., the largest newspaper publisher in the country, reported a 16% decline in third quarter net earnings Monday as the Sept. 11 attacks worsened an already bad advertising climate.
Gannett, which publishes USA Today and 96 other daily newspapers, earned $174.8 million in the three months ending Sept. 30, compared with $208.3 million in the same period a year ago.
Per-share earnings were 66 cents, compared with 79 cents a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call had been expecting 64 cents a share.
The results came in the range that the company had forecast last month, when it said results would be 15% to 20% below the same period last year because of the impact on advertising following the terrorist attacks.
The company’s stock was off 19 cents at $63.01 on morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Revenues fell 3% to $1.52 billion from $1.56 billion in the same period a year ago. Newspaper advertising revenues declined 1.6% while revenues at Gannett’s 22 television stations slumped 19%.
Advertising was pulled altogether from many TV stations in the wake of the attacks to make way for all-news coverage. Gannett chief executive Douglas H. McCorkindale said that even after the attacks, advertisers “remain cautious in the midst of uncertainty.”
Advertising pages at USA Today fell 21% in the quarter compared to the same period a year ago, when advertising was boosted by the Olympics. The company said there was also a drop in travel-related ads, an important category for USA Today, following the attacks on New York and Washington.
The company also reported Monday that its overall newspaper advertising revenues declined 9% in September compared to the same month a year ago, reflecting an already bad advertising climate that was worsened by the Sept. 11 attacks.
For the first nine months of the year, Gannett’s net earnings were down 59 percent to $582.8 million or $2.20 a share. In the same period a year ago, the company earned $1.42 billion, or $5.29 a share, which included a gain of $744.7 million, or $2.79 a share, on the sale of cable businesses.
Revenues for the first nine months of the year were up 9 percent to $4.72 billion from $4.33 billion.