Lee Enterprises, Post-Pulitzer Deal, Forecasts Revenue Growth

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Lee Enterprises officials on Wednesday offered an optimistic outlook following the acquisition of Pulitzer Inc. earlier this month.

“We have gained exceptional newspapers in fine markets with exceptional growth potential,” said Chief Executive Officer Mary Junck.

The purchase of Pulitzer, Inc. makes the Davenport-based newspaper publisher the fourth-largest newspaper company in the country in terms of the number of dailies and seventh largest in circulation.

For the year ended March 30, combined revenues totaled $1.15 billion. The former Pulitzer properties account for 39% of that revenue, Junck said.

Circulation in the 44 existing newspapers and 14 new ones total 1.7 million daily and 2 million on Sunday.

The driver behind the acquisition was revenue growth, Junck said: “Our list of top priorities begins with growing revenue creatively and rapidly, and we intend to keep our streak going.”

Despite the company’s optimism, per share earnings could decline 8 to 10 cents in 2005 as a result of the Pulitzer acquisition, company officials said.

Carl Schmidt, chief financial officer, said that Lee’s revenue is expected to grow by $440 million to $1.14 billion due to the Pulitzer acquisition.

He also touted the strength of Lee’s classified advertising: “Employment and real estate is carrying the day for revenue.” The company reported 5 percent increases in classified sales.

Lee performed better in circulation than others in the industry, Junck added.

Lee experienced a 1.6% decline in circulation in the six months ended March 31. Industrywide, the decline was 1.9%. Junck also said “Do Not Call” legislation affected circulation sales.

Lee operates 58 dailies in 23 states with combined circulation of 1.7 million daily and 2 million on Sundays.

Lee stock was down 12 cents at $41.48 in trading Wednesday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange.

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