Tribune Posts $139 Million Loss

By: Dave Carpenter, AP Business Writer

(AP) Tribune Co. reported a net loss Thursday of $139 million for the third quarter, citing an advertising falloff, an expensive restructuring, and costs of news coverage in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times also warned that fourth-quarter earnings will fall short of current estimates as the result of ad cancellations and higher newsgathering, production, and distribution costs. Other media companies have also taken big hits from the terrorist attacks and the continuing ad slump.

The net loss amounted to 49 cents a share. A year earlier, Tribune had net profits of $79.2 million or 22 cents a share.

Excluding a $131 million charge covering staff reductions, a $144 million write-down on investments and other non-operating items, earnings from operations were $148.7 million, down 37% from $236.7 million a year earlier.

Per-share earnings without the special items were 10 cents a share, down from 22 cents in the third quarter of 2000 but a penny better than Wall Street expected. Tribune shares rose 11 cents to $31.47 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Revenues fell 7% to $1.28 billion from $1.37 billion.

The Chicago-based company, which owns 11 newspapers, 22 television stations, and more than 50 Web sites, already had cut about 1,400 jobs, or 6% to 7% of its work force, because of the advertising slump.

The attacks increased spending in the form of extra newspaper editions, extended coverage by its TV and radio stations, and increased capacity by its Web sites.

John Madigan, Tribune’s chairman and chief executive officer, said the first priority has been to readers, viewers, and listeners with comprehensive news coverage of the war on terrorism.

“The financial impact of this commitment to serving the public is significant,” he said. “And at the same time, advertisers began rethinking their buying strategies.”

The staff reductions, he said, will save the company $58 million annually.

Tribune television stations lost about $12 million from the events of Sept. 11, the company said. TV revenues fell 6% to $274 million for the quarter, revenue from publishing — largely newspapers — declined 8% to $907 million, and retail advertising was off 7%.

For the first nine months, the company had a net loss of $15.7 million, or 5 cents a share, compared with year-earlier earnings of $168 million, or 65 cents a share. Revenues rose 14% to $3.93 billion from $3.43 billion.

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