Media General swings to Q4 net loss of US$3.3M from profit of US$9M in year-ago period mainly affected by severance expenses; net sales down 11.7% to US$168M due to an expected decrease in political revenues, lower print and advertising services sales
January 26, 2012
– Media General, Inc. (NYSE: MEG - News), a multimedia provider of broadcast television, digital media and print products, today reported operating income for the fourth quarter of 2011 of $27.7 million, excluding non-cash intangible asset impairment of $6 million and severance expense of $3.5 million. This compared with operating income of $36.7 million in the 2010 fourth quarter, excluding severance expense of $1.2 million and an insurance gain of $956,000. The impairment charge in the current quarter was related to DealTaker.com, as discussed below.
The company reported a net loss in the fourth quarter of 2011 of $3.3 million, or 15 cents per share, including the severance expense and impairment. Adjusted for severance and impairment, income in the fourth quarter of 2011 was $4.5 million, compared with income in the 2010 fourth quarter of $9.3 million, adjusted for severance expense and the insurance gain.
Total revenues in the 2011 fourth quarter of $168 million were $22 million, or 11.7 percent, lower than the prior year. This decrease was mostly due to an expected and significant decrease in Political revenues in an off-election year. Political revenues in the fourth quarter of 2010 were $24 million, compared with only $3.6 million in the current quarter. Lower Print revenues and a drop in Advertising Services revenues also contributed to the overall revenue shortfall.
Partially offsetting the lower revenues was an 8.6 percent decrease in total operating costs, adjusted for the severance expense, impairment and insurance gain.
"Media General's fourth-quarter results reflected several positive trends. Automotive advertising at our Broadcast television stations increased 14 percent from the prior year. Excluding Political revenues, total Broadcast revenues increased nearly 9 percent," said Marshall N. Morton, president and chief executive officer. "In addition, the decline in Print revenues moderated to 6.6 percent, compared with a 9.1 percent decrease in the third quarter of 2011. Fourth-quarter Print revenues included strong preprint advertising volume in several markets and solid retail advertising related to the holidays.
"Our media websites generated $8.3 million in revenues, the second highest ever for Media General, driven by 15 percent growth in Local online revenues, which broke the $5 million mark for the first time," Mr. Morton said. "With the acceleration of smartphone penetration, our mobile revenues were up more than three-fold in the quarter and are the fastest-growing advertising category. Mobile page views increased more than 80 percent. Unique visitors to our local media websites increased 7.5 percent, reflecting continuing audience growth from new sources such as tablets and social media.
"As we start the new year, we have generated strong Political revenues from the Republican primaries in South Carolina and Florida, and other campaign and issues spending is starting to ramp up. We have booked strong advance sales for the Super Bowl on our eight NBC stations. As this major election year unfolds, we expect to generate at-or-above-market shares of Political revenues at our highly ranked television stations. Our NBC stations also will benefit from Summer Olympics advertising," Mr. Morton said.
"We have put in place a number of strategic building blocks to increase cash flow generation in 2012, including a major restructuring of The Tampa Tribune. In December, we implemented a reduction in the workforce of 165 positions at The Tampa Tribune and its related print properties. We also implemented a number of other cost-saving actions. These actions will significantly improve cash flow in our Florida market this year," said Mr. Morton.
"For 2012 overall, we expect a continued decline in total Print revenues, although we are not prepared at this early stage to forecast by how much, due to limited visibility. We are making strong progress accelerating our digital strategy, and we are pleased with our paid-content initiatives. Our Internet partnerships are strong and growing," said Mr. Morton.
For the full year 2012, Media General currently expects that cash provided by operations will be used to make interest payments of $58 million, capital expenditures of $23-25 million and retirement plan contributions of $13 million. Other cash will be used to reduce debt wherever possible.
Virginia/Tennessee market profit increased 15 percent to $12.5 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $10.9 million last year. A 10.9 percent decrease in expenses offset a 5.5 percent decline in revenues. Political revenues were $965,000, compared with $1.6 million in the prior year. Local revenues rose slightly, driven by increases at the market's two television stations and a 36 percent jump in Local digital advertising. National revenues decreased 18.4 percent, and Classified revenues were down 17.1 percent. Printing and distribution revenues increased 25.7 percent. Digital media revenues increased 11.4 percent.
Florida market profit of $275,000 included $3.5 million of expense for severance and restructuring The Tampa Tribune and its related print operations. This compared with profit of $6.3 million in the 2010 fourth quarter, which included $5.9 million of Political revenues. Current-year Political revenues were only $194,000. Expenses decreased 3.8 percent, including the severance and restructuring costs. Local revenues decreased 3.1 percent, driven mostly by print declines, partially offset by Local digital revenues, which increased 3 percent. National revenues decreased 20.6 percent, due in part to the absence of BP revenues in the current year. Classified revenues decreased 18.1 percent due to lower real estate, employment and legal spending. Printing and distribution revenues were up 4.9 percent. Digital media revenues declined 9.1 percent, reflecting lower National advertising, partially offset by higher Local spending.
Mid-South market profit was $12 million, compared with $14.9 million in the prior year, primarily due to lower Political revenues in this broadcast-intensive market. Political revenues were $6.8 million in 2010, compared with only $845,000 in the current year. Local advertising revenues decreased just 1 percent, as a result of higher broadcast and digital media advertising, partially offset by print declines. National advertising was essentially even, with seven of the 11 television stations generating increases. Classified revenues were down 9.9 percent. Printing and distribution revenues were up 73.2 percent. Digital media revenue growth of 16.2 percent was the best performance of the company's geographic markets and resulted from a local direct sales focus.
North Carolina market profit was $3.9 million, compared with $2.9 million last year. A revenue decrease of only 2.4 percent was offset by an expense decrease of 8.2 percent. In the 2010 fourth quarter, the market had $724,000 in Political revenues, compared with $24,000 in the current quarter. Local revenues decreased 4.6 percent, primarily reflecting lower spending on the print side. National revenues rose nearly 10 percent, due to increases at both television stations and the Winston-Salem Journal. Classified revenues increased 1.6 percent, due to higher digital advertising and increased legal, automotive and help-wanted advertising at the community newspapers. Printing and distribution revenues rose 63.5 percent, primarily reflecting the printing of USA TODAY in Winston-Salem and several other new accounts. Digital media revenues declined 3.5 percent.
Ohio/Rhode Island market profit of $7.4 million compared with $9.4 million in the 2010 fourth quarter, due to a decrease in Political revenues. Political revenues in the current quarter were only $1.6 million, compared with $8.8 million in the prior year. The current-year Political revenues reflected issue spending in Columbus and the Massachusetts Senate race in Rhode Island. Digital media revenues grew 4.9 percent. Expenses in the market decreased 23 percent. Local revenues increased 20.6 percent, and National advertising grew 7.1 percent.
A loss of $1.3 million in the Advertising Services and Other segment compared with profit of $316,000 in the prior year. The decrease was primarily attributable to lower results at DealTaker.com and Blockdot.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the company performed an impairment test on DealTaker.com, resulting in a noncash pretax impairment charge totaling $6 million. Similar to many other e-commerce businesses, DealTaker.com has suffered the adverse effects of a significant change in the way Internet search results are delivered by Google.
Interest expense was approximately $14.6 million in the current quarter, down from $17.1 million in the prior-year quarter, due primarily to lower interest rates and due, in part, to the maturation of interest rate swaps in August of 2011.
Corporate expense decreased 8.2 percent from the prior year, due to employee furloughs and reductions in discretionary spending.
Newsprint expense decreased 3.6 percent from the 2010 fourth quarter. Consumption decreased 5.5 percent, while the average price per ton this year was $591, compared with $579 per ton in the prior-year quarter.
The company recorded income tax expense of $7.1 million in the fourth quarter, compared to $10.5 million in 2010. Both periods reflected non-cash tax expense related to the company's "naked credit" issue (as previously discussed in the company's public filings) and both were impacted by the effects of intraperiod tax allocation as well as other non-cash adjustments. The reduction in the fourth quarter was due primarily to the presence of the non-cash tax benefits related to the impairment charge recorded in the current period.
Media General's debt at the end of the fourth quarter was $658 million, compared with $663 million at the end of 2010. Total indebtedness to EBITDA was 7.43x, compared with a maximum of 7.75x. Fixed charge coverage ratio was 1.10, compared with a minimum of 0.95. Media General continues to evaluate options for refinancing, amending and/or extending $363 million of bank debt due March 29, 2013. Along with its financial advisors, the company continues to actively monitor the credit markets for potential refinancing at a reasonable cost. Under the existing credit agreement, the two main financial covenants tighten in 2012 with each succeeding quarter. Due to the impact of continued economic weakness and uncertainty on its Print business, and despite the strong favorable prospects for its Broadcast business this year, the company is uncomfortable with its ability to remain in compliance with the covenants as they tighten. Media General intends to present a proposal to its lender group over the next few weeks seeking covenant modifications that would provide more flexibility to operate in the current uncertain economic environment. Media General also will seek an extension of its existing maturity date. The company's objective is to reach agreement with the lender group prior to filing its Form 10-K for 2011.
EBITDA excluding impairment (loss/income before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, and impairment) was $37 million, compared with $49.1 million in the 2010 period. After-Tax Cash Flow was $22.4 million, excluding impairment, compared to $32 million in the prior-year. Capital expenditures were $3.4 million this year, compared with $10.9 million in the fourth quarter last year. Free Cash Flow (After-Tax Cash Flow excluding impairment minus capital expenditures) was $19 million, compared with Free Cash Flow of $21.1 million in the prior-year.
Media General provides the non-GAAP financial metrics EBITDA excluding impairment, After-tax cash flow excluding impairment, Free cash flow excluding impairment, Operating income adjusted for severance, impairment and insurance gain, Income adjusted for severance, impairment and insurance gain, and Operating costs adjusted for severance, impairment and insurance gain. The company believes these metrics, along with the supplemental platform results, are alternative measures used by investors, financial analysts and rating agencies to evaluate a company's ability to service its debt requirements and to estimate the value of the company. A reconciliation of these metrics to amounts on the GAAP statements has been included in this news release.
Conference Call, Webcast and Financial Statements
The company will hold a conference call with financial analysts today at 2:30 p.m. ET. The conference call will be available to the media and general public through a limited number of listen-only dial-in conference lines and via simultaneous webcast. To dial in to the call, listeners may call 1-866-510-0704 about 10 minutes prior to the 2:30 p.m. start. The participant passcode is "Media General." Listeners may also access the live webcast by logging on to www.mediageneral.com and clicking on the "Live Webcast" link on the homepage about 10 minutes in advance. A replay of the webcast will be available online at www.mediageneral.com beginning at 5:30 p.m. today. A telephone replay is also available, beginning at 5:30 p.m. today, and ending at 11:59 p.m. on February 2, 2012, by dialing 1-888-286-8010 or 617-801-6888, and using the passcode 75377646.
About Media General
Media General is a leading provider of news, information and entertainment across multiple media platforms, serving consumers and advertisers in strong local markets, primarily in the Southeastern United States. The company is transforming itself over time to a digital media model, while continuing to effectively manage its larger, cash producing broadcast television and print platforms. Media General's operations are organized in five geographic market segments and a sixth segment that includes the company's interactive advertising services and certain other operations. The company's operations include 18 network-affiliated television stations and their associated websites and 23 newspapers and their associated websites. Media General operates three digital media advertising services companies: Blockdot, which specializes in interactive entertainment and advergaming technologies; DealTaker.com, a coupon and shopping website; and NetInformer, a leading provider of wireless media and mobile marketing services.
Industry Intelligence Editor's Note: In an omitted table, Media General recorded 2010 Q4 net profit of US$9 million.