Lee Enterprises Reports Loss in Second Fiscal Quarter

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Newspaper publisher Lee Enterprises Inc. reported a loss for its second fiscal quarter, primarily the result of a previously announced charge related to future liability involving the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The company said Monday it lost $4.45 million, or 10 cents a share, in the quarter ended March 30. A year ago, the company reported it earned $11.9 million, or 26 cents a share.

Excluding one-time charges, the company earned 8 cents a share in the second quarter compared with 19 cents a year ago.

Sales declined 4.7 percent to $247.7 million for the quarter and circulation revenue fell 1.7 percent to $49.1 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected earnings of 6 cents a share on sales of $248.75 million. Analysts results typically exclude one-time charges.

In early trading, Lee shares dropped 29 cents to $8.85.

Total advertising revenue dropped 5.7 percent to $186.1 million from $197.4 million in the year-earlier quarter. The company said combined print and online sales fell in all classified advertising categories including employment, which was down 22.4 percent and real estate, which fell 23.3 percent. Automotive classifieds were down nearly 17 percent, and national advertising sales decreased 13.3 percent.

“The economic slowdown has taken a toll on classified advertising revenue, especially real estate and employment, and we’re driving hard to perform in a tough environment,” Chief Executive Mary Junck said in a statement.

Lee announced on March 28 that it would report a non-cash charge of 17 cents a share to record the current value of the company’s future liability related to its acquisition of a minority share in the St. Louis partnership. The company said the potential liability of $55.6 million was reported on its balance sheet for the second quarter.

Lee acquired the St. Louis properties in 2005 with the purchase of Pulitzer Inc.

Additional charges for impairment of goodwill and other assets were not included in Monday’s filing and will be reported before May 9, the company said. Previously, Lee said those charges could be as high as $700 million.

Davenport-based Lee owns newspaper and online products in 23 states. It publishes 50 daily newspapers and has a joint interest in five others including those in St. Louis, Mo.; Lincoln, Neb.; Madison, Wis., and Tucson, Ariz. It also has 300 weekly newspapers and specialty publications.

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