Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Urgent: Company beats forecast, but shares plunge

(Updated at 1:52 p.m.) NYT Co. posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit today after slashing costs, but the newspaper publisher warned that print advertising will continue to decline in the current quarter. In early afternoon trading, shares dived nearly 9% -- accelerating a sell-off that began earlier in the day.

Ad revenue at the news media group, which includes The New York Times, Boston Globe and other papers, fell 15% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, Reuters news service says.

But CEO Janet Robinson offered a cloudy forecast for the current quarter, sending investors skittering. "In the first quarter of 2010, we expect the rate of decline for print advertising to continue to improve modestly from the fourth quarter," she said in a statement.

Net income was $90.9 million, or 61 cents a share, up from $27.6 million, or 19 cents a share in the year-ago fourth quarter. Excluding charges and other items, NYT Co. would have earned 44 cents a share, up 22% from a year earlier. Revenue was $681.2 million, down 11.5% from $769.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. Media stock analysts had forecast revenue of $653 million, down from $772 million. Earnings were expected to be 38 cents per share, double the 19 cents in the prior year.

Here's an interesting detail from the statement: "Corporate costs were $20.1 million compared with $11.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, mainly due to higher performance-related compensation costs." That sounds like higher bonuses, no?

Related: The NYT's story is here. And The Wall Street Journal's account is here.

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