Tribune Reports Q4 Loss of $78 Million, Barely Profitable ’07

By: E&P Staff

In its last quarter as a publicly traded company, Tribune Co. lost $78 million from continuing operations, the now-private Chicago media giant reported Thursday.

For the full year 2007, Tribune was profitable, but its $55 million income from continuing operations was a big decrease from the $661 million it cleared in 2006.

Tribune said it took a pretax non-cash goodwill and masthead impairment charge of $130 million in the last quarter of 2007. The charge was $79 million after taxes, it said.

Tribune also reported increased charges for severance and related charged in the quarter, and a $6 million pre-tax write-down of Tribune Entertainment program assets.

Q4 2007 had one less week than the last quarter of 2006, Tribune noted. Adjusting for that week, operating revenues decreased 7% in the quarter — and operating cash flow plummeted 41%.

Tribune publishing operating revenues for the adjusted quarter fell 7 percent, while cash flow from newspapers and other print products sunk by 30%.

Publishing results included the impairment charge, and $33 million in expenses related to the going-private transaction.

Publishing ad revenue fell 9% in the adjusted final quarter, with classified revenue down 25%.

Classified was hurt by double-digit decreases in all major categories, including real estate (down 34%); help wanted (down 28%) and automotive (down 13%).

Retail adv revenues was off 10 percent for the quarter primarily due to decreases in the department stores, electronics, hardware/home improvement, amusement, and furniture/home improvement categories, Tribune said.

Preprint revenue were also down for the quarter, by 8%.

National fell by 11%.

Internet advertising revenue, which is included in the print categories, was up just 6% for the quarter.

“Despite the continued difficult operating environment and weakness in print revenue, we see significant opportunity within Tribune Company,” Chairman and CEO Sam Zell said in a statement. “In our first 75 days, we’ve made a series of key leadership changes, have launched a number of programs and projects to drive new revenue, and have initiated a fundamental shift in culture. In addition, we have begun a strategic review of certain Tribune assets to determine whether capital can be more effectively redeployed into our core operations or toward reducing our outstanding leverage.”

Tribune disclosed expenses related to the strategic review that led to the going-private transaction completed in December 2007 amounted to $47 million.

The report for the full year noted that it recorded a pre-tax gain of $2.5 million, or $100,000 after taxes, on the sale of its New York edition of the Spanish-language daily Hoy last May.

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