Free-Paper Publisher Metro Swings to Q3 Loss

By: Mark Fitzgerald Metro International, the world's largest publisher of free commuter dailies, reported a third-quarter loss Monday on revenue that fell 26% from a year ago.

But Metro CEO Per Mikael Jensen said the company, which this year sold its U.S. newspapers along with all its papers in Portugal and Italy, is doing better than most newspaper companies -- and predicts a recovery to profitability 2010.

Jensen said after adjusting for currency fluctuations and accounting costs for the sale of unprofitable papers, the revenue was down just 8%.

For the quarter, Metro reported a loss of 8.6 million euros compared to a profit of 22.2 million euros in the third quarter of 2008. (1 euro is approximately equal to $1.50 US.) Net revenue fell to 42.5 million euros.

Like its U.S. newspaper counterparts, Metro has been chopping away at expenses. It reported year-over-year operating costs dropped 15% adjusting for currency movements and closed and divested operations. In addition to selling several units, Metro closed its Spanish newspapers, while expanding with partnerships in Ecuador and Hungary.

Metro said its Internet ad sales jumped 79%, but the 204,000 euros revenue was not enough to offset expenses. Web operations lost 1.13 million euros, Metro said.


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