Gannett Q1 Earnings Jump 2.6%

By: Matthew Barakat, AP Business Writer

(AP) Gannett Co. Inc.’s first-quarter earnings ticked up 2.6% in the first three months of 2003 after an initially strong quarter for advertising slowed down as the Iraq war approached.

The media company, which owns USA Today and 99 other U.S.-based daily newspapers, reported earnings of $250 million, or 93 cents a share, compared to $244 million, or 91 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

The earnings barely exceeded the expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, who had predicted 92 cents a share. The company had warned analysts earlier this month that its initial guidance of 94 to 96 cents a share was overly optimistic.

Quarterly revenue also increased 2.6%, to $1.55 billion from $1.51 billion in 2002. Newspaper advertising, which accounts for about two-thirds of the company’s revenue, increased 3.7%, from $969 million to $1.01 billion. Newspaper circulation revenue increased 1.1%, from $299 million to $302 million.

USA Today, the company’s flagship paper, increased revenue by just 1%. The newspaper is particularly dependent on travel advertising, which suffered with the war.

The company’s television division, which includes 22 stations in the United States, saw revenue drop 5.4%, from $167 million to $158 million. The company attributed that drop to the unusually high revenue last year generated by the 13 NBC affiliates that broadcast the Winter Olympics.

Chairman, President and CEO Douglas H. McCorkindale said the company was pleased that earnings increased, especially given the “reluctance of advertisers to spend in an uncertain geopolitical environment.”

He also praised the company’s journalists for their work during the war. “The war has been experienced with unprecedented closeness, only because of the courage and tenacity of reporters, photographers, and editors. We applaud their efforts,” McCorkindale said.

Gannett shares fell 53 cents to $74.12 each in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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