Journal Communications 1Q Profit Down

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Journal Communications Inc., owner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other papers, on Tuesday said first-quarter earnings declined nearly 30 percent, as the sale of its NorthStar Print Group helped year-ago results.

Net income fell to $12.3 million, or 17 cents per share, compared with $17.4 million, or 23 cents per share during the same period last year. Revenue grew 2.6 percent to $189.1 million, from $184.2 million last year.

Results for the recently ended quarter include operations of three television stations acquired in December. Year-ago results included a $4.8 million gain from the sale of NorthStar Print Group.

Analysts, on average, predicted a profit of 16 cents on revenue of $191.4 million, according to a Thomson Financial poll.

All segments saw revenue decline with the exception of broadcasting, which saw a 39 percent increase to $51.6 million, helped by new television operations and the Winter Olympics.

Publishing revenue decreased 1.5 percent to $79.5 million, reflecting, in part, the shutdown of the company’s printing plant in New Orleans.

“The daily newspaper posted a disappointing February and March as overall classified and automobile advertising in particular was challenging despite a small increase in the retail category,” said Steven J. Smith, chairman and chief executive, in a statement. “Expense control and the expansion of online products are a continuing focus of the Journal Sentinel.”

Telecommunications revenue declined about 12 percent to $32.8 million due to lower prices and service disconnections. Printing services revenue slipped 11 percent to $16.3 million due to decline in revenue from Dell Computer Corp.

The company anticipates second-quarter earnings of between $14 million and $16 million and revenue, including revenue from Norlight Telecommunications, which will be reported as a discontinued operation, of between $196 million and $201 million.

Analysts, on average, predict second-quarter revenue of $206.5 million.

The company authorized the repurchase of up to 5 million additional shares of its stock over the next 19 months. During the first-quarter, Journal Communications bought back 836,730 shares.

Separately, the company also reported March revenue. Publishing revenue fell 1.9 percent to $33.2 million, hurt by the shutdown of the Louisiana printing plant. Broadcasting revenue grew 39 percent to $21.4 million, helped by acquisitions. Radio group revenue remained flat at $7.4 million. Television group revenue climbed 75 percent to $14 million, helped by the final week of the Winter Olympics.

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