Slight Drop for NYT Co. in Q4

By: Jennifer Saba The New York Times Co. reported today Q4 earnings per share of $.75, compared with $.73 for the same period last year, even though total earnings decreased to $110.2 million from $110.9 million a year ago. The company said the increase was the result of share repurchasing -- the company bought 1.3 million shares last quarter, for $50 million -- favorable tax rates, and improvements from joint ventures.

For its News Media Group, which includes the company's newspaper properties, advertising revenue grew 2.4% for the quarter due to higher advertising rates. National was down 1.4%, retail was up 8%, and classifieds rose 2.9%. Circulation revenue was flat for the same period.

The company reported advertising revenue at its digital properties jumped 30% in Q4 over a year earlier. In response to rumors that The New York Times will begin charging for its free site, CFO Leonard Forman insisted that for now the site will remain free.

Overall the national-advertising category held back results for the quarter. Janet Robinson, president and CEO of the company, said in a statement: "Our newspapers in small cities performed better than those in larger markets, as national advertising, particularly in the entertainment, technology, and financial categories, decreased in the fourth quarter, while classified and retail advertising showed year-over-year improvement."

Operating profit for the group dropped 7.2%, to $182.8 million, from $197 million a year earlier.

Newsprint expenses grew 7.5%.

For the year, advertising revenue for the News Media Group grew 3% while circulation decreased 0.2%. Robinson told analysts during a conference call today that the company expects the Times to be up in daily and Sunday circulation for the next reporting period, ending March 2005. The Boston Globe is expected to be down in both categories.

For the month of December, advertising revenues for the Media Group increased 2.2% compared with the same period last year. National advertising declined 2.8%, retail rose 8.8%, and classified was up 2.5%.

For the entire year, advertising revenue increased 3% over 2003. National advertising revenue increased 1.6%, retail grew 4.1%, and classified increased 3%.

When questioned by an analyst regarding the company's potential 49% investment in Metro Boston, Robinson said that the company is continuing its "due diligence" of reviewing Metro's response to executives' inappropriate comments.


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