Tribune Profits Off 29%, NYT Co. Earnings Down, Too

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By: The Associated Press and E&P Staff

Tribune Co., the newspaper publisher and radio and TV station operator, said Thursday that its first-quarter profit fell 29% as revenue edged lower.

A little later, The New York Times Co. said it posted lower first quarter earnings, hurt by higher newsprint costs.

At Tribune, net income after paying preferred dividends declined to $100.7 million, or 33 cents per share, in the period ended March 26 from $140.8 million, or 44 cents per share, a year ago. The company said results included severance charges and a non-operating loss totaling 6 cents per share, stock based compensation expenses of 4 cents per share, and a 1 cent per share gain from a property sale.

Revenue edged down 1 percent to $1.3 billion from $1.32 billion last year, with newspaper ad revenue remaining flat. “Strength in classified, with interactive revenues up nearly 30 percent, was offset by declines in national and retail advertising,” Tribune said.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected earnings per share of 36 cents, including stock options expenses, on revenue of $1.3 billion.

The company, which began trimming jobs last year as part of a cost cutting inititative, said that tight cost controls remain in effect. The company has cut some 1,200 positions.

Meanwhile, The New York Times Co. (which also publishes The Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune and other papers) said net earnings fell to $35 million, or 24 cents a share, from $111 million, or 76 cents a share, a year earlier. That 2005 quarter included a gain of 46 cents a share from the sale of its current headquarters.

The New York Times warned investors last month that first quarter earnings would be below analysts’ estimates.

The latest results include a charge of $9.4 million for job cuts announced in September. The year-earlier figures included a gain of $67.8 million for the sale of the company’s headquarters and property in Florida.

The New York Times said that total revenue in Q1 grew 3.3% to $831.8 million compared with $805.6 million in the same period last year. Excluding About.com, which was acquired in March, total revenue increased 1.1%.

Advertising revenue for Q1 advanced 3.9. Excluding About.com, ad revenue was up 0.7%.

Circulation revenue increased 0.3%.

Total costs and expenses rose 6% to $763.5 million. Excluding those costs related to staff reductions and About.com, total costs and expenses grew 3.2% due to a 1.3% increase in higher distribution and printing costs, a 1% increase in raw materials expense, and a 0.8% increase in higher promotion expense.

Total revenue for the News Media Group increased 1% to $781 million. Ad revenue grew 0.7%, mainly due to growth in online revenues. Higher print advertising rates were more than offset by lower print volume.

For the New York Times Media Group, advertising revenue was up 2.1%. Circulation was up 1.8%.

For the New England Media Group, advertising revenue dropped 7.2% and circulation revenue declined 5.7%.

For the Regional Group, ad revenue was up 5.3% and circulation was up 1.5%.

In a statement, New York Times Co. CEO Janet L. Robinson said: “In total, our Internet businesses now account for 7.5% of our overall revenues, up from 4.5% in Q1 of last year. This stems from both strong organic growth as well as the acquisition of About.com.”

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