Media General Posts 3Q Loss

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(AP) Media General Inc., a newspaper publisher and broadcaster based in Richmond, Va., reported its first quarterly loss in four years Wednesday, blaming the effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Media General lost $736,000, or 3 cents a share, for the third quarter of 2001. During the same period last year, the company had a profit of $8.5 million, or 36 cents per share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call had been expecting a loss of 4 cents a share. Nonetheless, the company’s shares were off 65 cents at $42.20 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

“The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 had an immediate impact on our earnings, and they have exacerbated the economic uncertainty that has caused many of our advertisers to remain cautious,” chief executive J. Stewart Bryan III said.

The last time the company reported a quarterly loss was in the first quarter of 1997, when it lost $54.8 million, or $2.06 per share, as a result of the acquisition of Park Communications, company spokesman Karl Rhodes said.

Revenues for the third quarter of 2001 were $193.1 million, down 4% from $201.9 million in the same period last year.

Cost-cutting measures that took effect early this year, including a companywide hiring freeze, partially offset the losses, Bryan said. The hiring freeze cut 580 positions, or 7% of the company’s total work force, from what had been budgeted.

Media General’s publishing division, which includes the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Tampa Tribune, had revenue of $130.1 million, down from $133.3 million during the same time last year. Excluding acquisitions and divestitures, revenue fell 5.4%.

For the first nine months of the year, Media General had net profits of $10.3 million compared to $32.5 million in the same period a year ago. Revenues rose 2% to $597.7 million from $585.6 million.

Media General has interests in newspapers, broadcast television, recycled newsprint, and diversified information services, primarily in the Southeast.

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