Tribune Co. records $139 million third quarter loss

By Dave Carpenter, The Associated Press
Saturday October 20, 2001

CHICAGO — Tribune Co. reported a net loss Thursday of $139 million for the third quarter, citing an advertising falloff, an expensive restructuring and costs of news coverage in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. 

The publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times also warned that fourth-quarter earnings will fall short of current estimates as the result of ad cancellations and higher costs for newsgathering, production and distribution. Other media companies also have taken big financial hits in the wake of the terrorist attacks and continuing ad slump. 

The net loss amounted to 49 cents a share. 

A year earlier, Tribune had net profits of $79.2 million or 22 cents a share. 

Excluding a $131 million charge covering staff reductions, a $144 million write-down on investments and other non-operating items, earnings from operations were $148.7 million, down 37 percent from $236.7 million a year earlier. 

Per-share earnings without the special items were 10 cents a share, down from 22 cents in the third quarter of 2000 but a penny better than Wall Street expected. Tribune shares rose 23 cents to $31.59 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. 

Revenues fell 7 percent to $1.28 billion from $1.37 billion. 

The Chicago-based company, which owns 11 newspapers, 22 television stations and more than 50 Web sites, already this year has cut about 1,700 jobs, or 6 percent to 7 percent of its work force, because of the advertising slump, executives said on a conference call.  

About 600 to 700 of those came through voluntary retirement, spokesman Gary Weitman said. 

The attacks increased spending in the form of extra newspaper editions, extended coverage by its TV and radio stations, and increased capacity by its Web sites. 

John Madigan, Tribune’s chairman and chief executive officer, said the first priority has been to readers, viewers and listeners with comprehensive news coverage of the war on terrorism. 

“The financial impact of this commitment to serving the public is significant,” he said. “And at the same time, advertisers began rethinking their buying strategies.” 

The staff reductions, he said, will save the company $58 million annually. 

Tribune television stations lost about $12 million from the events of Sept. 11, the company said. 

TV revenues fell 6 percent to $274 million for the quarter, revenue from publishing — largely newspapers — declined 8 percent to $907 million, and retail advertising was off 7 percent. 

For the first nine months, the company had a net loss of $15.7 million, or 5 cents a share, compared with year-earlier earnings of $168 million, or 65 cents a share. Revenues rose 14 percent to $3.93 billion from $3.43 billion. 


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