Tribune Company (NYSE:TRB) executives today will update investors and analysts on the company’s business progress this year at the Mid-Year Media Review conference in New York City.
“We now expect consolidated revenue growth of four percent for the year,” Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune’s chairman, president and chief executive says in his prepared remarks. “And we’re confident of achieving it because the overall economy is solid, help wanted trends continue to be strong and TV results will improve in the second half of the year.”
FitzSimons says Tribune’s stock repurchase program is evidence of the company’s confidence in its financial performance and future growth potential. “We’ve been aggressively repurchasing our stock. So far this year, we’ve bought back about 12 million shares, at a cost of nearly $600 million.”
Tribune Company expects to generate operating cash flow of about $1.7 billion this year. By year’s end, outstanding debt will be about $1.9 billion, giving the company a debt-to-cash flow ratio of nearly 1-to-1. Capital expenditures in 2004 will total about $220 million.
The company is seeing solid advertising growth at its television stations. According to Patrick Mullen, president of Tribune Television, “Our third quarter pace is encouraging and the fourth quarter should be even better.”
Tribune Publishing president Jack Fuller points to growth in help wanted advertising at the company’s newspapers. “Help wanted advertising has been strong. Overall, Tribune’s total help wanted revenue is up 19 percent year to date, buoyed by nine consecutive months of positive job creation nationwide.”
Cost saving initiatives implemented across Tribune Publishing earlier this month have had a positive effect, and as a consequence, Fuller says, “We believe we will turn in a good bottom line performance in the second half of this year, and will have a strong start on expense control in 2005 and beyond.”
The cost savings initiatives will result in a one-time pretax charge of $10-$15 million which is expected to be taken in the second quarter. Excluding this charge and non-operating items, second quarter diluted earnings per share is expected to be within the current range of analysts’ estimates. On the same basis, full year diluted EPS is expected to increase year-over-year in the low double digits.