New York Times 4Q Profit Seen Dipping

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(AP) Newspaper publisher New York Times Co. reports earnings for the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The following is a summary of key developments and analyst opinion related to the period.

EXPECTATIONS: New York Times, which also owns the Boston Globe and International Herald Tribune, said in December it expects fourth-quarter earnings of 45 cents to 47 cents per share, sharply below year-ago profit of 75 cents, due to the difficult advertising environment. Excluding costs related to job cuts, the company pegged its earnings at 59 cents to 62 cents per share. Analysts, on average, are expecting New York Times to post a profit of 59 cents per share for the quarter, according to Thomson Financial.

ANALYST TAKE: Bear Stearns analyst Alexia Quadrani expects New York Times to miss the consensus estimate by 1 cent per share, on a 2.5% gain in newspaper ad revenue and 3% gain in overall revenue, as cash costs increase 8%. “We believe there is limited upside to NYT’s stock price at this time,” Quadrani said in a client note last Thursday.

QUARTER DEVELOPMENTS: New York Times, which in addition to its newspapers also runs online guide portal and several television stations, during the quarter said it had signed up about 135,000 paying subscribers to its new online TimesSelect service, which charges readers for access to Op-Ed columns and other previously free Web content.

The Times said it had signed up more than 270,000 subscribers to the service since it began, and that about half of them are online-only.

The company has been actively trimming its staff as it loses ad revenue because of consolidation among its advertisers.

COMPETITORS: McClatchy Co. last month reiterated its fourth-quarter profit expectations of 98 cents to $1 per share. The publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Sacramento Bee reports quarterly results on Wednesday.

Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, earlier this month tapped Chief Operating Officer Richard Zannino to be its new CEO, replacing Peter Kann, who will remain as chairman until 2007. Also this month, Dow Jones raised its fourth-quarter earnings estimate to about 40 cents per share, up from prior guidance in the low- to mid-30 cents per share range.

Gannett Co. reports results on Friday. The nation’s biggest newspaper publisher with 99 daily newspapers, including USA Today, said last month it expects earnings from continuing operations at the lower end of the range of analysts’ estimates of between of $1.40 to $1.44 per share at the time.

STOCK PERFORMANCE: New York Times shares fell 11% during the quarter, hitting a 52-week low of $26.09 on Dec. 27.

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