Lee Enterprises' Earnings Fall

The publisher of the <I>St. Louis Post Dispatch</I> sees ads dip.
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Newspaper publisher Lee Enterprises (LEE) - Get Report said its fourth-quarter earnings fell 16.7% from a year ago.

The Davenport, Iowa-based company earned $10.9 million, or 24 cents a share in the quarter, compared with $13.1 million, or 29 cents a share, in the year-ago period. The company earned 33 cents a share from its continuing operations.Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting EPS of 43 cents.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 0.2% to $279.7million, as against analysts' estimate of $288.5 million.

Operating income for the quarter rose 20.5% to $47.4 million.

By segment, retail advertising revenue was down 1.4% at $110.4 million, classified revenue fell 1.9% to $79 million, and national revenue slid 8.6% to $12 million. Online advertising revenue increased 43.1% to $10.4 million, and revenue from niche publications increased 9% to $4.3 million. Total advertising revenue fell 0.3% to $216.4 million, and circulation revenue decreased 0.2% to $51.6 million.

"Lee continues to drive advertising revenue aggressively both in print and online, well ahead of the industry average. At the same time, we're rapidly building larger online audiences while protecting our strong base of paid newspaper circulation."

A standout in circulation growth is the

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

, and the success of the Cardinals in the World Series enhances our prospects for a good start to our new fiscal year in St. Louis, where new management and new sales programs are gaining traction. Meanwhile, due primarily to our strong cash flow, we reduced net debt by $179 million in 2006," the company said.

The company's shares were down 78 cents, or 2.7% at $28.12 Thursday.

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