A. H. Belo's Q1 net loss narrows to US$3.9M from US$6.7M in year-ago period, net sales down 6.6% to US$104.8M; ad revenue down 12%, with newsprint expense and consumption down 12% and 11%, respectively

Kendall Sinclair

Kendall Sinclair

Apr 30, 2012 – Business Wire

DALLAS , April 30, 2012 (press release) – A. H. Belo Corporation today reported a net loss of $0.18 per share for the first quarter of 2012 compared to a net loss of $0.31 per share in the first quarter of 2011. The first quarter 2012 net loss includes gains totaling $0.5 million from the Company's disposition of certain real estate assets in Dallas.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization ("EBITDA") was $5.1 million in the first quarter of 2012, an increase of 82 percent compared to the first quarter of 2011. When pension expense is added back to EBITDA ("Adjusted EBITDA") in both periods, Adjusted EBITDA in the first quarter was $6.1 million, an increase of 36 percent compared to the prior year period.

As of March 31, 2012, cash and cash equivalents were $55.7 million, and the Company had no borrowings under its bank credit facility.

Robert W. Decherd, chairman, president and Chief Executive Officer, said, "First quarter Adjusted EBITDA performance exceeded our internal expectations by a large margin due to expense containment. 508 Digital, our new digital business focused on small and medium businesses in Dallas, completed its first round of sales training at the end of March and launched sales teams into the market. We are pleased with the startup guidance provided by our partner, Hearst Corporation, and the early financial results. Our second wave of sales teams is now on the field."

Decherd continued, "On this afternoon's conference call, Jim Moroney, Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of The Dallas Morning News, will discuss key takeaways from the first year of The Morning News' subscriber content initiative, and The Morning News' subscriber content priorities for 2012."

First Quarter Results

Total revenue was $104.8 million in the first quarter of 2012, a decrease of 7 percent compared to the prior year period. Excluding the impact of advertising related to the Super Bowl in Dallas during the first quarter of 2011, total revenue decreased 5 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

Advertising revenue, including print and digital revenues, decreased 12 percent -- with the smallest percentage decrease at The Providence Journal followed by The Press-Enterprise and The Dallas Morning News. Excluding the impact of advertising related to the Super Bowl, advertising revenue, including print and digital revenues, decreased 10 percent -- with the smallest percentage decrease at The Dallas Morning News followed by The Providence Journal and The Press-Enterprise. Display advertising revenue decreased 18 percent to $19.4 million, and preprint revenue decreased 6 percent to $18.9 million. Classified revenue decreased 10 percent to $13.9 million. As expected, digital revenue decreased 11 percent to $7.8 million. Excluding the impact of a discontinuation of a revenue allocation to digital and the Super Bowl, digital revenue was flat in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the prior year period.

In the third quarter of 2011, The Morning News discontinued the niche publication Quick. When Quick's advertising revenue in the first quarter of 2011 is excluded, advertising revenue from ongoing niche publications increased 2 percent in the first quarter of 2012. This increase resulted from higher advertising revenue at The Morning News' Spanish-language publication Al Dia. Advertising revenue from niche publications is a component of the display, preprint, classified and digital revenue figures presented above.

Circulation revenue decreased 1 percent to $34.7 million in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the prior year period. Excluding $0.9 million of circulation revenue resulting from The Providence Journal's transition from a carrier to a distributor circulation model in 2011, total circulation revenue decreased 4 percent to $33.8 million.

Printing and distribution revenue increased 10 percent to $10.1 million in the first quarter of 2012 due primarily to new contracts at The Providence Journal. During the first quarter, The Press-Enterprise reached agreement with the North County Times for The Press-Enterprise to print the North County Times beginning in June.

Total consolidated operating expense in the first quarter was $109.1 million. Excluding the effect of pension expense in both periods, operating expense in the first quarter was $108.1 million, an 8 percent decrease compared to the prior year period as salaries and wages, newsprint, outside services and advertising expenses all decreased. First quarter severance and related expenses totaled $0.2 million.

The Company's newsprint expense in the first quarter was $9.5 million, a decrease of 12 percent compared to the prior year period. Newsprint consumption dropped 11 percent to 15,041 metric tons. Compared to the prior year period, newsprint cost per metric ton and the average purchase price per metric ton for newsprint were flat.

Excluding the effect of pension expense in both periods, first quarter corporate and non-operating unit expenses were $7.7 million, a decrease of 8 percent compared to the prior year period.

Capital expenditures totaled $1.8 million in the first quarter. The Company anticipates full-year 2012 capital expenditures in the $8 to $10 million range.

As of March 31, 2012, A. H. Belo had approximately 2,000 full-time equivalent employees, a decrease of approximately 14 percent compared to the prior year period.

Executive Changes

The Dallas Morning News recently retained executive search firms to assist The Morning News with hiring two key executives, a Vice President/Sales and a Vice President/Marketing, both reporting to Jim Moroney. The current head of the sales department, Cyndy Carr, is leaving The Morning News to join a startup. The Vice President/Marketing position will focus on consumer marketing, data analytics, and print and digital subscriber acquisition and retention.

Moroney said, "Cyndy's work in re-organizing and re-constituting The Dallas Morning News' sales department over the past three years has been invaluable, and we wish her success in her new business venture. I am excited about the opportunity to recruit two new senior leaders who can continue to leverage the strong assets of The Morning News."

Pension Plans

At the start of the second quarter, the Company voluntarily contributed $10 million to its defined benefit pension plans. Provided aggregate discount rates stabilize and investment performance meets or exceeds expectations, the Company does not anticipate making further voluntary contributions to its pension plans in 2012 or 2013.

In April, the Company also made a required quarterly contribution of $4.6 million and accelerated payment of its $3.4 million required quarterly contribution due in September 2012.

As a result of the $10 million voluntary contribution, the accelerated September payment and other factors, the Company anticipates that its required 2012 cash contributions to the pension plans will be reduced by $1.9 million. The estimated total required cash contribution to the pension plans in 2012 is $22.6 million, significantly below the Company's previous estimates.

Non-GAAP Financial Measures

Reconciliations of net loss to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are included as exhibits to this release.

Conference Call

A. H. Belo will conduct a conference call today at 1:30 p.m. CDT to discuss first quarter 2012 financial results and The Dallas Morning News' subscriber content initiative. Before the market opens, A. H. Belo will post a presentation about The Morning News' subscriber content initiative on the Company's website under the Investor Relations section ( www.ahbelo.com/invest ), and this presentation will be referenced during the conference call. The conference call will be available via webcast under the Investor Relations section of the Company's website ( www.ahbelo.com/invest ) or by dialing 1-800-230-1074 (USA) or 612-234-9960 (International). A replay line will be available at 1-800-475-6701 (USA) or 320-365-3844 (International) from approximately 3:30 p.m. CDT on April 30 until 11:59 p.m. CDT on May 7, 2012. The access code for the replay is 243285.

About A. H. Belo Corporation

A. H. Belo Corporation, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is a distinguished newspaper publishing and local news and information company that owns and operates four daily newspapers and related websites. A. H. Belo publishes The Dallas Morning News, Texas' leading newspaper and winner of nine Pulitzer Prizes; The Providence Journal, the oldest continuously-published daily newspaper in the United States and winner of four Pulitzer Prizes; The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA), serving the Inland Southern California region and winner of one Pulitzer Prize; and the Denton Record-Chronicle. The Company publishes niche publications targeting specific audiences, and its investments and/or partnerships include Classified Ventures, owner of Cars.com, and the Yahoo! Newspaper Consortium. A. H. Belo also owns and operates commercial printing, distribution and direct mail service businesses. Additional information is available at www.ahbelo.com or by contacting David A. Gross, Vice President/Investor Relations and Strategic Analysis, at 214-977-4810.

        A. H. Belo Corporation
        Condensed Consolidated Statements of Operations
                                                                          Three months ended
                                                                               March 31,
        In thousands, except per share amounts (unaudited)             2012                2011
        -----------------------------------------------------   ------------------  ------------------
        Net operating revenues
           Advertising                                             $  60,077           $  67,936
           Circulation                                                34,655              35,052
           Printing and distribution                                  10,102               9,187
                                                                     -------             -------
                                                                     104,834             112,175
              Total net operating revenues
        Operating costs and expenses
           Salaries, wages and employee benefits                      46,005              50,495
           Other production, distribution and operating costs         40,696              45,652
           Newsprint, ink and other supplies                          13,972              14,502
           Depreciation                                                7,113               7,583
           Amortization                                                1,310               1,310
                                                                     -------             -------
              Total operating costs and expenses                     109,096             119,542
              Loss from operations                                    (4,262)            (7,367)
        Other (expense) income, net
           Interest expense                                             (136)              (207)
           Other income, net                                             907               1,267
                                                                     -------             -------
              Total other (expense) income, net                          771               1,060
                                                                     -------             -------
           Loss before income taxes                                   (3,491)            (6,307)
           Income tax expense                                            402                 420
                                                                     -------             -------
              Net loss                                             $  (3,893)         $  (6,727)
                                                                ==== ======= ====   ==== ======= ====
        Net loss per share:
           Basic and diluted                                       $   (0.18)         $   (0.31)
        Average shares outstanding:
           Basic and diluted                                          21,688              21,383

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