- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — Newspaper publishers New York Times Co. and Media General Inc., of Richmond, reported first-quarter losses yesterday as revenues tumbled because of the slumping economy and more advertising losses to the Internet.

Meanwhile, Sam Zell, chief executive of the newly private Tribune Co., told investors at a conference that he is reconsidering his plan to keep the media company intact because of a “significant erosion” in revenue.

The Times badly missed analysts earnings estimates, swinging to a net loss of $335,000, or less than a penny per share, compared with an income of $23.9 million or 17 cents per share in the same period a year ago.

The culprit was slumping advertising revenue, which fell 9.2 percent in the quarter, leading to a total revenue decline of 4.9 percent.

Classified ad revenues, the most vulnerable to economic shifts and competition from the Internet, were the worst-hit category, dropping 22.6 percent.

Despite the large earnings miss, the Times” shares closed down only 8 cents to $19.42.

In Chicago, Tribune’s Mr. Zell said he expects double-digit declines in print advertising this quarter and confirmed that he”s considering selling more of the company”s properties including Long Island-based Newsday.

Declining newspaper advertising also hurt Media General, which had a wider loss in the first quarter, exacerbated by a charge related to the planned sale of some TV stations. The loss from continuing operations was smaller than estimates, however.

The company, which publishes the Richmond Times-Dispatch and is also being pressured by hedge fund Harbinger Capital, lost $20.3 million, or 91 cents per share, in the January-March period after a loss of $6.5 million, or 27 cents per share, last year.

Media General”s shares rose 63 cents to $14.97.

Harbinger Capital has nominated a slate of three directors for Media General’s board to be elected at the company’s annual meeting next week. On Wednesday, one of Media General’s largest shareholders, Mario J. Gabelli, said he plans to vote for Harbinger’s slate.

Mr. Gabelli, whose investment company holds about 22 percent of the Media General”s Class A shares, said the company ignored his firm”s suggestions that it not make any acquisitions, in particular four NBC stations in 2006, and reduce debt to maintain “financial flexibility.”

Harbinger had also threatened a proxy battle against the New York Times but reached a settlement with that company after the newspaper agreed to add two directors to its board put forth by Harbinger.

PAPER MONEY

New York Times Co. reported a first-quarter loss yesterday as advertising continued to shrink.

Q1 ‘07 23.9 million

Q2 ‘07 118.4 million

Q3 ‘07 13.4 million

Q4 ‘07 53 million

Q1 ‘08 —$335,000 [actual number cq: -335K]

Source: Bloomberg News


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