Lee Enterprises posts 4Q net loss, lower revenue

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Lee Enterprises Inc., publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other daily newspapers, reported a net loss for its fourth quarter because of an accounting adjustment related to a drop in the company’s market value.

The loss was $8.8 million, or 20 cents per share, in its fiscal fourth-quarter, down from earnings of $5.2 million, or 11 cents per share in the same period a year earlier.

The latest quarter’s results include a noncash charge Lee took to account for the declining value of its assets and other items. In its third quarter, Lee took a charge of $162 million based on an early estimate of the adjustment it needed to make. In the latest quarter, the company booked an additional $13.9 million charge because its initial estimate was too low.

Excluding the charge, Lee’s adjusted earnings were $8.9 million, or 20 cents per share in the latest quarter, up from $7.2 million, or 16 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 3 percent to $182.4 million from $188.7 million. That was a smaller decline than the previous quarter and slightly above the forecast of $181.4 million the company gave last month.

Lee Enterprises CEO and chairman Mary Junck said in a statement that the company continues “to drive digital revenue and audiences at a terrific clip — and, although the economy hasn’t been doing us many favors, we showed some improvement in our overall revenue trend over the last two quarters.” Junck is a member of the The Associated Press’ board of directors.

Combined, print and digital advertising revenue decreased 4.7 percent to $128 million.

But digital ad revenue grew 23.4 percent to $15.4 million, and represented 12 percent of the total. Circulation revenue climbed 2.7 percent.

As a result of the accounting adjustment, Lee reported a net loss for the full fiscal year of $146.9 million, or $3.27 per share, down from earnings of $46.1 million, or $1.03 per share, a year ago.

Revenue slid 3 percent to $756.1 million from $780.6 million.

In September, Lee finalized a deal with most of its lenders that gives the company more time to repay debt. Uncertainty about whether it would be able to pay about $1 billion in debt due in April had raised fears that the company might have to seek bankruptcy protection.

The company said on Monday that it continues to work on refinancing the remainder of the debt due in April.

Lee’s stock fell 5 cents, or 6.9 percent, to close at 68 cents on Tuesday. The stock has traded the last year in a range of 58 cents to $3.47.

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