Media General Falls on Weak 1Q Outlook

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Media General Inc.’s stock slid to a fresh 52-week low Monday as an analyst cut his price target on the company’s weak first-quarter forecast and soft February sales results.

The stock’s movement bucked that of the overall market, which was rising on news that a new agreement will give Bear Stearns Cos. shareholders five times the payout than was outlined in a JPMorgan Chase & Co. buyout deal a week ago.

Late last week Media General, which operates television stations and publishes newspapers including the Tampa Tribune, predicted a first-quarter loss from continuing operations between 40 cents to 45 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial forecast a loss of 13 cents per share.

The Richmond, Va.-based company also said its February revenue slid 11 percent on classified ad declines in its newspaper unit, particularly Tampa, Fla.

David Clark of Deutsche Bank North America said in a client note that Media General’s February revenue results came in below his forecast for a 9.4 percent decline. The analyst was also concerned about the company’s first-quarter earnings outlook, which is below his estimate for a loss of 27 cents per share.

Clark reduced Media General’s price target to $15 from $17 and trimmed his full-year profit forecast to $1.01 per share from $1.22 per share. He reiterated a “Hold” rating.

Shares of Media General shed $1.85, or 11.6 percent, to $14.11 in afternoon trading. The stock hit a new low of $13.89 earlier in the session.

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