Pulitzer Revises Q3 Loss to $9.4 Mil. Profit

By: Jim Suhr, AP Business Writer

(AP) Newspaper publisher Pulitzer Inc. said Tuesday it was revising its previously announced third-quarter loss to a $9.4 million profit, reflecting the now-delayed adoption of a new accounting standard.

The publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Arizona Daily Star in Tucson said the revisions did not reflect any changes in its operating results, financial position, cash flows or prospects.

According to the revisions, Pulitzer said it earned 43 cents per share during the three-month period ending Sept. 28. A year earlier, the company earned $8.7 million, or 40 cents a share.

Pulitzer had said Oct. 27 it had lost $16.6 million — or 77 cents a share — in the quarter.

Pulitzer had delayed that earnings announcement for six days as it sought clarification on the applicability of new Financial Accounting Standards Board guidelines governing how to book minority interests in certain joint ventures.

Pulitzer said then that the confusion related to whether and to what extent the new rule applied to The Herald Co. Inc.’s equity interests in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch LLC, which owns and runs the Post-Dispatch, and in STL Distribution Services LLC, which delivers St. Louis-area publications and products. The Herald Co. has a 5% stake in both operations; Pulitzer owns the rest.

Pulitzer’s earnings announced Oct. 27 adhered to the new accounting standard. But just days later, FASB indefinitely deferred the guideline’s adoption, prompting Pulitzer’s revised earnings Tuesday.

Pulitzer said Tuesday its revised third-quarter base earnings were 44 cents per share, two pennies less that first announced last month and in the same period last year.

Pulitzer said Tuesday its earnings for this year’s first nine months were $27.9 million, or $1.29 per share, compared with $22.5 million, or $1.05 per share, a year ago. Base earnings in the January-September period were $1.33, up from $1.27 last year.

Robert Woodworth, Pulitzer’s president and chief executive, last month called the third quarter “challenging,” citing soft advertising demand and other factors. Cost controls helped Pulitzer hold expenses largely flat with last year despite a more than 9% increase in newsprint prices.

Pulitzer said Tuesday it expects full-year 2003 base earnings of at least $1.95 a share, calling that outlook consistent with previous guidance of $2 a share once adjusted to reflect the accounting change.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expect Pulitzer’s full-year earnings to be $1.98 a share.

Still, Pulitzer cautioned that continued weakness from recruitment, automotive and major retail advertisers — and other issues including a Sunday single-copy drop-off in Post-Dispatch sales during what had been a nearly four-week, St. Louis-area grocery strike — make achieving the $1.95-a-share base earnings more challenging than first anticipated.

Pulitzer also operates a dozen other daily newspapers and owns the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis, a group of 37 weekly papers and niche publications.

Pulitzer’s shares were up 4 cents at $53.19 in afternoon trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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