Lee Enterprises reports fiscal Q2 net income of US$1.5M, up from net loss of US$3.7M a year ago, on reduced operating expenses, increased digital advertising revenues; total revenues down 4.1% year-over-year to US$1.5B

DAVENPORT, Iowa , May 8, 2014 (press release) – Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (NYSE: LEE), a major provider of local news, information and advertising in 50 markets, today reported preliminary (1) earnings of 3 cents per diluted
common share for its second fiscal quarter ended March 30, 2014, compared with a loss of 12 cents a year ago. Excluding unusual matters, adjusted earnings per diluted common share (2) totaled 5 cents, compared with a loss of 5 cents a year ago.

Mary Junck, chairman and chief executive officer, said: “We continued 2014 with another good quarter. The market for digital advertising continues to expand, with digital advertising revenue growing at a double digit clip. Our business transformation initiatives continue to create efficiencies, driving cash costs(2)down almost 6% in the quarter and creating an increase in operating cash flow(2)over the prior year. We are now in a position to improve our full year guidance, once again, as we expect our cash costs to be down 3.0-3.5% in
2014."

She added: "With the refinancing announcement a few weeks ago, pushing our maturities out to 2022, we can continue to focus on driving operating results through our many revenue and business transformation initiatives. One of our key initiatives is our full-access subscription model, with our first two markets having launched in April. We are optimistic about the results and will continue the roll out of full-access subscriptions to more than half of our markets by the end of the year."

SECOND QUARTER OPERATING RESULTS(3)

Operating revenue for the 13 weeks ended March 30, 2014 totaled $154.1 million, a decrease of 4.1% compared with a year ago. Combined print and digital advertising and marketing services revenue decreased 4.3% to $102.7 million, an improvement from recent trends, with retail advertising down 2.4%, classified down 10.7% and national up 9.9%. Retail preprint advertising decreased 1.3%. Combined print and digital classified employment revenue decreased 6.9%, while automotive decreased 17.0%, real estate decreased 6.8% and other classified decreased 10.5%. Digital advertising and marketing services revenue on a stand-alone basis increased 10.2% to $17.4 million and now totals 16.9% of total advertising and marketing services revenue. Print advertising and marketing services revenue on a stand-alone basis decreased 6.8%. Subscription revenue decreased 4.3%.

Total digital revenue, including advertising, marketing services, subscriptions and digital businesses, totaled $20.5 million in the quarter, up 13.1% compared with the quarter a year ago. Mobile advertising revenue increased 9.8%, to $1.5 million.

Digital audiences continued to grow. Mobile, tablet, desktop and app page views increased 16.2% to 235.9 million, and monthly unique visitors increased 30.8% to 30.3 million for the month of March 2014. Increases from branded editions resulted in a 9.9% increase in Sunday circulation during the quarter. Daily circulation decreased 5.0%.

Cash costs decreased 5.7% for the 13 weeks ended March 30, 2014. Compensation decreased 8.0%, with the average number of full-time equivalent employees down 6.0%. Newsprint and ink expense decreased 12.9%, primarily a result of a reduction in newsprint volume of 13.5%. Other operating expenses decreased 1.0%.

For the full year, 2014 cash costs are now expected to decrease 3.0-3.5%, excluding the impact of a subscription-related expense reclassification as a result of moving to fee-for-service delivery contracts at several of our newspapers. This reclassification will increase both revenue and operating expenses, with no impact on operating cash flow or operating income. A table later in this release details the impact of the reclassification on revenue and cash costs.

Operating cash flow
increased 2.4% from a year ago to $32.7 million. Operating cash flow margin(2)was 21.2%, compared to 19.9% a year ago. Including equity in earnings of associated companies, depreciation and amortization, as well as unusual matters in both years, operating income increased 27.1% to $23.7 million in the current year quarter, compared with $18.7 million a year ago. Operating income margin increased to 15.4% up from 11.6% a year ago.

Non-operating expenses, primarily interest expense and debt financing costs, decreased 10.9%, due to a 10.4% reduction in interest expense. Lower debt balances and the refinancing of the Pulitzer Notes in May 2013 contributed to the interest expense reduction. Income attributable to Lee Enterprises, Incorporated for the quarter totaled $1.5 million, compared with a loss of $6.0 million a year ago.

(Table included in attached pdf)

YEAR-TO-DATE OPERATING RESULTS(3)

Operating revenue for the 26 weeks ended March 30, 2014, totaled $331.5 million, a decrease of 4.0% compared with the 26 weeks ended March 31, 2013. Combined print and digital advertising and marketing services revenue decreased 4.7% to $225.1 million, with retail advertising down 3.0%, classified down 10.0% and national increased 2.0%. Combined print and digital classified employment revenue decreased 6.6%, while automotive decreased 14.8%, real estate decreased 5.9% and other classified decreased 10.3%. Digital  advertising and marketing services revenue on a stand-alone basis increased 10.0% to $36.0 million. Print advertising and marketing services revenue on a stand-alone basis decreased 7.1%. Subscription revenue decreased 2.6%.

Total digital revenue, including advertising, marketing services, subscriptions and digital businesses, totaled $42.1 million in the quarter, up 12.9% compared with a year ago. Mobile advertising revenue increased 22.9%, to $3.3 million.

Increases from branded editions resulted in a 9.4% increase in Sunday circulation during the 26 weeks ended March 30, 2014, as audited by the Alliance for Audited Media. Audited daily circulation decreased 3.1% over the same six month period. 

Cash costs for the 26 weeks ended March 30, 2014 decreased 4.7%% compared to the same period a year ago. Compensation decreased 6.9%, with the average number of full-time equivalent employees down 5.9%. Newsprint and ink expense decreased 13.1%, a result of a reduction in newsprint volume of 11.7%. Other operating expenses increased 0.4%.

Operating cash flow decreased 1.7% from a year ago to $82.0 million. Operating cash flow margin increased to 24.7% from 24.2% a year ago. Including equity in earnings of associated companies, depreciation and amortization, as well as unusual matters in both years, operating income increased 9.9% to $63.9 million in the 26 weeks ended March 30, 2014, compared with $58.2 million a year ago.

Non-operating expenses increased 4.5%, as a $6.9 million gain on sale of an investment in the prior year was partially offset by a 10.8% decrease in interest expense in the current year due to lower debt balances and the refinancing of the Pulitzer Notes in May 2013. Income attributable to Lee Enterprises, Incorporated totaled $13.4 million, compared to $8.6 million a year ago. 

DEBT AND FREE CASH FLOW(2)

Debt was reduced $20.0 million in the quarter and $80.0 million in the last twelve months. The principal
amount of debt totaled $813.0 million at March 30, 2014.
As previously announced, on March 31, 2014, subsequent to the end of the quarter, we completed a
comprehensive refinancing of our long-term debt, which includes the following:

  • $400 million aggregate principal amount of 9.5% senior secured notes due 2022;
  • $250 million first lien term loan due 2019 and $40 million revolving facility (which was undrawn at closing); and 
  • $150 million second lien term loan due 2022.

The new facilities enabled the Company to repay in full $768 million outstanding under, and terminate, the previous 1stlien agreement and 2ndlien agreement. We also used the proceeds of the refinancing to pay fees and expenses totaling approximately $32 million related to the refinancing. The Company's Pulitzer Notes debt, which totaled $45 million at March 30, 2014, was not refinanced. On a pro forma basis for the refinancing, the principal amount of debt at March 30, 2014 totaled $845 million. Since the refinancing, $15.25 million of debt has been repaid, and the remaining amount stands at $829.75 million.

Free cash flow increased to $12.7 million for the quarter, compared with $10.4 million a year ago, and totaled $85.0 million in the last twelve months. Liquidity at the end of the quarter totaled $44.8 million, compared to required debt principal payments of $27.4 million in the next twelve months, as adjusted for the refinancing. 

CONFERENCE CALL INFORMATION

As previously announced, we will hold an earnings conference call and audio webcast later today at 9 a.m. Central Daylight Time. The live webcast will be accessible at lee.net and will be available for replay two hours later. The call also may be monitored on a listen-only conference line by dialing (toll free) 877-407-3980 and entering a conference passcode of 13581947 at least five minutes before the scheduled start.

ABOUT LEE

Lee Enterprises is a leading provider of local news and information, and a major platform for advertising, in its markets, with 46 daily newspapers and a joint interest in four others, rapidly growing digital products and nearly 300 specialty publications in 22 states. Lee's newspapers have circulation of 1.2 million daily and 1.5 million Sunday, reaching nearly four million readers in print alone. Lee's websites and mobile and tablet products attracted 30.3 million unique visitors in March 2014. Lee's markets include St. Louis, MO; Lincoln, NE; Madison, WI; Davenport, IA; Billings, MT; Bloomington, IL; and Tucson, AZ. Lee Common Stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LEE. For more information about Lee, please visit lee.net.

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS — The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides a “safe harbor” for forward-looking statements. This news release contains information that may be deemed forward-looking that is based largely on our current expectations, and is subject to certain risks, trends and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated. Among such risks, trends and other uncertainties, which in some instances are beyond our control, are our ability to generate
cash flows and maintain liquidity sufficient to service our debt, comply with or obtain amendments or waivers of the financial covenants contained in our credit facilities, if necessary, to refinance our debt as it comes due, or that the warrants issued in our refinancing will not be exercised. Other risks and uncertainties include the impact and duration of continuing adverse conditions in certain aspects of the economy affecting our business, changes in advertising demand, potential changes in newsprint and other commodity prices, energy
costs, interest rates, labor costs, legislative and regulatory rulings, difficulties in achieving planned expense reductions, maintaining employee and customer relationships, increased capital costs, maintaining our listing status on the NYSE, competition and other risks detailed from time to time in our publicly filed documents. Any statements that are not statements of historical fact (including statements containing the words “may”, “will”, “would”, “could”, “believe”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “intend”, “plan”, “project”, “estimate”, “consider” and similar expressions) generally should be considered forward-looking statements. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements, which are made as of the date of this Current Report on Form 8-K. We do not undertake to publicly update or revise our forward-looking statements. 

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