Lee Enterprises Reports Results for Q4 and Fiscal Year

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By: Press Release | reuters.com

DAVENPORT, Iowa (November 7, 2011) — Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (NYSE: LEE) reported today that for its fourth fiscal quarter ended September 25, 2011, total revenue declined 3.3 percent compared with a year ago and same property revenue declined 3.0 percent, both improved from a preliminary forecast. Digital advertising revenue increased 23.4 percent, as previously announced. Cash costs decreased 4.8% percent, and operating cash flow(1) increased 2.4 percent.
 
Reported results were reduced by non-cash charges to finalize estimates for impairment of goodwill and other assets reported in the June quarter, resulting in a loss of 20cents per diluted common share for the quarter and a loss of $3.27 per diluted common share for the year. Excluding the impairment charges and other unusual matters, adjusted earnings per diluted common share(2) were 20 cents for the quarter, compared with 16 cents a year ago, and 71 cents for the fiscal year, the same as a year ago.
 
Mary Junck, chairman and chief executive officer, said: “We continue to drive digital revenue and audiences at a terrific clip — and, although the economy hasn’t been doing us many favors, we showed some improvement in our overall revenue trend over the last two quarters. At the same time, we continue to keep cash costs under control and, as a result, operating cash flow remains strong.”

FOURTH QUARTER RESULTS 
 
Operating revenue for the quarter totaled $182.4 million, a decline of 3.3 percent on a reported basis from a year ago. Combined print and digital advertising revenue decreased 4.7 percent to $128.0 million, with retail advertising down 2.9 percent, national down 4.6 percent and classified down 8.0 percent.  Combined print and digital classified employment advertising revenue increased 3.2 percent, while automotive decreased 4.5 percent, real estate decreased 20.3 percent and other classified decreased 11.0 percent. Digital advertising revenue on a stand-alone basis increased 23.4 percent to $15.4 million, representing 12.0 percent of total advertising revenue. Digital retail advertising revenue climbed 42.9 percent and digital classified revenue decreased 4.4 percent. Circulation revenue increased 2.7 percent.
 
Operating expenses, excluding depreciation, amortization and unusual matters, decreased 5.6%compared to the prior year. Compensation expense declined 7.2 percent, with the average number of full-time equivalent employees down 6.8 percent. Newsprint and ink expense decreased 7.6 percent, as newsprint volume declined 7.2 percent. Other operating expenses decreased 2.9 percent. Operating expenses, excluding depreciation, amortization and unusual matters, are expected to decrease another 1.5-2.5 percent for the 2012 fiscal year from the 2011 level.
 
Operating cash flow increased 2.4 percentfrom a year ago to $39.0 million. Operating cash flow margin(1) increased to 21.4 percent from 20.2 percent a year ago. Including equity in earnings of associated companies, depreciation and amortization, as well as unusual matters in both years, operating income totaled $5.0 million, compared with $22.6 million a year ago. Operating income margin was 2.7 percent in the current year quarter. Non-operating expenses, primarily interest expense and debt financing costs, declined 12.0 percent to $14.9 million from $16.9 million a year ago. The resulting loss attributable to Lee Enterprises, Incorporated totaled $8.8 million, compared with income of $5.2 million a year ago.
 
IMPAIRMENT CHARGES
 
Results for the quarter include non-cash charges to finalize estimates for impairment of goodwill and other assets reported in the June quarter. The additional charges, which total $17.7 million before income taxes and $13.9 million after tax, reduce the book value of goodwill, mastheads, the value of TNI Partners and other assets. The impairment charges have no effect on cash flows, but reduced reported earnings per common share, resulting in a loss for the quarter and year. The impairment testing is performed in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, which, among other factors, require consideration of differences between current book value and the fair value of all of the company’s assets, including current market capitalization.
 
AUDIENCES 
 
Lee’s digital sites attracted 21.6 million unique visitors in the month of September 2011, an increase of 12.6 percent from a year ago. Mobile page views in September increased 231 percent to 22.6 million, reflecting deployment of latest-generation mobile applications for smartphones in all Lee markets, as well as continued rapid audience growth at Lee mobile websites.
 
Total average circulation of Lee’s 52 daily newspapers was 1.3 million daily and 1.6 million Sunday for the six-month Audit Bureau of Circulations Fas-Fax period ended September 2011.
 
The latest Lee Enterprises Audience Report, for the January-June 2011 survey period in Lee’s top 12 markets, shows that overall audience reach remains strong and stable at 66 percent of adults either reading the newspaper or visiting the newspaper website over the course of a week. An additional 15 percent used the newspaper in some way, such as accessing advertising or other information, for a total reach among all adults of 81 percent in a week. The report, from Thoroughbred Research, carries an overall margin of error of 1 percentage point.

ADJUSTED EARNINGS AND EPS FOR THE QUARTER
 

Unusual matters affecting year-over-year comparisons include debt financing costs in both years and impairment charges in 2011. The following table summarizes the impact from unusual matters on income (loss) attributable to Lee Enterprises, Incorporated and earnings (loss) per diluted common share. Per share amounts may not add due to rounding.

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