Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) today reported third quarter 2004 diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $.37 compared with $.53 in the third quarter of 2003.
Publishing operating profit in the 2004 third quarter included a pretax charge of $55 million, or $.10 per diluted share, related to the anticipated settlement with advertisers regarding misstated circulation at Newsday and Hoy, New York, for the periods September 2001 through March 2004. The company recorded a $35 million charge in the second quarter of 2004 for this matter and will continue to evaluate the adequacy of this $90 million reserve.
The 2004 third quarter results also included a net non-operating loss of $.04 per diluted share, while the 2003 third quarter results included a net non-operating gain of $.05 per diluted share.
Tribune presents earnings per share amounts on a generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”) basis only. This differs from the pro forma earnings per share amounts supplied by broker analysts to databases such as First Call.
“This was a challenging quarter for the company, due to an uneven economy and soft advertising environment,” said Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Overall, we generated more than $300 million in operating cash flow, aggressively managed our costs, and made significant progress resolving circulation issues with advertisers at Newsday and Hoy, New York. Most important, internal audits at our other large newspapers detected no evidence of circulation misstatements like those at Newsday.”
THIRD QUARTER 2004 RESULTS
Tribune’s 2004 third quarter operating revenues increased 2 percent to $1.41 billion from $1.39 billion in the 2003 third quarter. Consolidated cash operating expenses increased $85 million, or 8 percent, in the third quarter of 2004; 5 percentage points, or $55 million, of the increase is attributable to the charge discussed above. Operating cash flow was down 15 percent to $314 million compared with the third quarter of 2003. Tribune’s operating profit decreased 18 percent to $258 million, compared with $314 million in 2003.
Publishing’s third quarter operating revenues were $981 million, up 2 percent from last year’s third quarter. Publishing cash operating expenses rose by 11 percent; 8 percentage points, or $55 million, of the increase is attributable to the charge discussed below. Publishing operating cash flow was $174 million, a 26 percent decrease from $236 million in the third quarter of 2003. Publishing operating profit decreased 32 percent to
$132 million, down from $193 million in 2003.
During the third quarter of 2004, the company recorded a pretax charge of $55 million, or $.10 per share, as a result of increasing its estimate of the cost to settle with advertisers related to the reduced reported circulation at Newsday and Hoy, New York, based upon facts available at this time.
- Retail advertising revenues rose 4 percent for the quarter. Increases in electronics, furniture/home furnishing, food, health care and hardware were partially offset by a decline in department stores. Preprint revenues increased 11 percent, led by a
27 percent increase in Los Angeles, a 10 percent increase in Chicago and an
11 percent increase in Baltimore.
- National advertising was up 1 percent for the quarter with increases in the auto manufacturers and financial categories, partially offset by decreases in travel/resorts, hi-tech and movies/entertainment.
- Classified advertising was up 2 percent for the quarter. Help wanted revenues for the group were up 10 percent: Chicago rose 12 percent, Los Angeles was up 7 percent and New York declined 11 percent. Real estate revenues increased 7 percent for the quarter while auto revenues were down 8 percent.
- Circulation revenues were down 3 percent in the third quarter of 2004 due to declines in New York and Los Angeles.
- Interactive revenues, which are included in the above categories, were $32 million, up 30 percent, due to strength in classified and banner/sponsorship advertising.
- CareerBuilder network revenues increased 80 percent from last year’s third quarter.
- In addition to the impact of the previously discussed $55 million charge, higher newsprint prices, increased retirement and other benefit expenses and new publications also contributed to the increase in cash operating expenses. Newsprint and ink expense was 7 percent higher than 2003 as newsprint cost per ton was up 12 percent while consumption decreased by 4 percent.
BROADCASTING AND ENTERTAINMENT
Broadcasting and entertainment’s third quarter operating revenues increased 3 percent to $432 million, up from $419 million in 2003. Cash operating expenses were up 3 percent in the third quarter of 2004. Operating cash flow was $151 million, up 4 percent from $145 million in 2003. Operating profit rose 4 percent to $138 million from $134 million last year.
Television’s third quarter revenues were flat at $327 million compared with the third quarter of 2003. Television cash operating expenses were down 1 percent from last year. Television operating cash flow was $133 million, a 2 percent increase from $131 million in the third quarter of 2003. Television operating profit in the third quarter of 2004 remained flat at $121 million compared with last year.
- Television advertising growth was driven by gains in the telecom and education categories, offset by softness in movies and automobiles.
- Television cash operating expenses were down 1 percent compared with last year primarily due to lower broadcast rights amortization, partially offset by higher benefits expense.
- Television’s operating cash flow margin was 40.8 percent, up from 40.2 percent in 2003.
Net equity loss was $1.6 million in the third quarter of 2004, compared with net equity income of $0.8 million in the third quarter of 2003. The decrease was primarily due to increased equity losses from The WB Network and CareerBuilder, partially offset by additional equity income from TV Food Network.
In the 2004 and 2003 third quarters, Tribune recorded a net after-tax non-operating loss of $12 million, or $.04 per diluted share, and a net after-tax non-operating gain of $19 million, or $.05 per diluted share, respectively, primarily from marking-to-market the company’s PHONES derivatives and related Time Warner investment.
ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL DETAILS
Corporate expenses for the 2004 third quarter increased to $12.5 million from $12.1 million in the third quarter of 2003 due to increased retirement plan expenses.
Net interest expense for the 2004 third quarter decreased to $35 million, down 27 percent from $48 million in the third quarter of 2003, as higher interest rate debt was retired and replaced with commercial paper in the second quarter of 2004. Debt, excluding the PHONES, decreased to approximately $2.1 billion at the end of the 2004 third quarter from a balance of $2.2 billion at the end of the third quarter of 2003.
The effective tax rate in the 2004 third quarter was 39.4 percent, compared with 38.8 percent in the 2003 third quarter.
Capital expenditures were about $34 million in the third quarter of 2004.
2004 FOURTH QUARTER OUTLOOK
Consolidated revenues and operating expenses for the fourth quarter of 2004 are expected to grow in the low single digit percent range. Consolidated operating expenses for the fourth quarter of 2004 are expected to increase due to higher expenses for retirement and medical plans, newsprint and the impact of new publications. Fourth quarter interest expense is expected to decrease from 2003 due to a lower average debt level and the impact of the debt refinancing in the second quarter of 2004. The effective income tax rate for 2004 is expected to be approximately 39 percent.
WEBCAST OF CONFERENCE CALL
Today at 8:30 a.m. (CDT), a live Webcast of the 2004 third quarter conference call will be accessible through www.tribune.com and www.ccbn.com. An archive of the Webcast will be available on these sites from October 28 through November 4. More information about Tribune is available at www.tribune.com or by calling 800/757-1694.