Lee Reports 7.8% Earnings Growth

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By: E&P Staff

Thanks to a sharp increase in employment ad revenue, and despite double-digit growth in newsprint expenses, Lee Enterprises Tuesday reported a 7.8% surge in its first fiscal quarter.

Total advertising revenue was up 4.3%, to $130.8 million, in the three months ending Dec. 31. Operating revenue increased 3.3%, to $175.5 million. Operating expenses, however, were up 3.0%, to $124.2 million, led by a rise of 10% for newsprint and ink, the company reported. Net income for the Davenport, Iowa-based publishing company was up 9%, to $24.5 million.

“We’re off to an excellent start in fiscal 2004, with advertising and total revenue increasing strongly against an exceptionally good quarter a year ago,” said Mary Junck, chairman and chief executive officer. “Although the overall economy remains uneven, we’re especially gratified to see our first quarterly gain in employment advertising revenue in three years, continued strength in retail advertising, and another quarter of higher rates of growth at our new newspapers. At the same time, we’ve been able to keep costs under control overall, despite a double-digit increase in newsprint expense.”

Lee is a leading publisher in midsize markets around the country. The company owns 38 daily newspapers and has a joint interest in six others. Lee also publishes nearly 200 weekly newspapers, shoppers and classified and specialty publications.

The company’s largest daily is the Wisconsin State Journal (mornings and Sundays) and owns an interest in its affiliated The Capital Times (afternoons). The two Madison papers have a combined circulation of 108,692 daily and 152,899 on Sundays.

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