- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Times Co. and two other newspaper companies reported weaker revenues for the fourth quarter yesterday as an economic slowdown continued to hammer classified advertising.

Media General Inc. and E.W. Scripps Co. also posted weaker results as lower political advertising revenues from broadcasting and a particularly bad economic slump in Florida hurt both companies.

The Times swung to a net profit of $53 million from a loss of $648 million a year earlier, when it recorded a big charge to write down more than half the value of Massachusetts papers Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette, which have been hit by regional economic weakness and the consolidation of key advertisers.

But the Times’ revenue also fell 7.1 percent in the quarter, or 1.7 percent without the effect of an extra week falling in the year-ago period, missing analysts’ expectations. After posting gains in October and November, revenue weakened in December, Chief Executive Janet Robinson said, mainly on poor results in classifieds as well as retail.

Excluding one-time charges in both periods, the Times’ earnings came to 44 cents per share, down from 46 cents per share a year ago. But shares rose 9 cents to $16.74 yesterday.

Media General, a broadcast and newspaper company based in Richmond, reported a 70 percent decline in profit because of a write-down, one less week in the period and less political revenue.

The company — which owns the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Tampa Tribune and Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina — earned $9.6 million, or 43 cents per share, versus $31.6 million, or $1.33 per share, a year ago. Revenue fell 16 percent to $243.8 million, far below estimates of $261.3 million.

Scripps, which is in the process of splitting off its cable networks business, reported an 8 percent decline in profit on lower ad sales at its newspapers and television stations.

Scripps earned $123.3 million, or 75 cents a share, down from $133.9 million, or 81 cents. Total revenue edged down 0.6 percent to $679.2 million. Newspaper revenue at the company fell 9.6 percent, while revenue from television stations fell 18 percent and cable network advertising sales rose 14 percent.

Cincinnati-based Scripps, which also owns the Food Network and HGTV cable channels, also said it expects first-quarter earnings to be 38 to 42 cents, compared with 39 cents in the year-ago period and below the analysts’ estimate of 44 cents. Scripps’ shares fell 28 cents to $40.72.

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