Gannett Reports Revenue Gain But 9% Earnings Drop

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Gannett Co., the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, reported a 9 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings Friday, due to expenses from its swap of newspapers in Detroit and the absence of election-year advertising.

The publisher of USA Today and 90 other daily newspapers in the U.S. reported earnings of $343 million, or $1.44 per share, in the quarter ending Dec. 25, compared to earnings of $378 million, or $1.47 a share, in the fourth quarter of 2004.

Still, the earnings beat the consensus estimate of $1.41 a share by Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. The company had advised analysts to expect earnings in the range of $1.40 to $1.44 a share.

Quarterly revenue increased 6 percent, to $2.05 billion from $1.94 billion a year ago. The company said this reflected the change in Detroit, in which Gannett acquired the Detroit Free Press from Knight Ridder Inc. and sold the smaller Detroit News to MediaNews Group. Gannett said quarterly revenue would have decreased by 2 percent if it had the same properties in 2004 that it had in 2005.

The newspaper swap also resulted in a 12 percent increase in quarterly newspaper operating expenses, the company said.

For the year, Gannett earned $1.24 billion, or $5.05 per share, on revenue of $7.60 billion, compared to earnings of $1.32 billion, or $4.92 per share, on revenue of $7.28 billion.

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