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First-quarter earnings slid from a gain-swollen year-ago period at the

New York Times Co.


, the company said Thursday, while sales matched estimates amid a growing contribution from online assets.

The Times earned $35.0 million, or 24 cents a share, in the latest quarter, including a charge of $5.2 million, or 4 cents a share, related to staff reductions. A year ago, the company earned $111 million, or 76 cents a share, including a gain totaling 65 cents a share from the sale of its headquarters and another property.

There was a penny a share of options expense in the latest quarter.

Analysts, who generally make estimates that exclude one-time items, were forecasting earnings of 27 cents a share in the most recent period.

The Times said sales rose 3.3% from a year ago to $831.8 million, matching the $832 million Thomson First Call estimates. Advertising revenue rose 3.9% in the quarter while circulation revenue rose 0.3%. The company said excluding its

Internet site, total revenue was up about 1.1%.

Total costs and expenses rose 6% from a year ago to $763.5 million, while expenses excluding

rose 3.2%. The company cited higher distribution and outside printing costs; higher raw materials costs; and higher promotional expenses.

The Times' newsprint expense rose 5.9% in the first quarter from a year earlier.

"Our results in the first quarter reflect higher advertising and circulation revenues at The New York Times Media Group and the Regional Media Group, in part due to the introduction of innovative new products," the company said. "Performance at the New England Media Group was adversely affected by consolidation among important advertisers and by a continued challenging environment.

"The Web sites in our News Media Group posted solid gains in advertising revenues -- up 23% in the quarter, which is a particularly strong showing, given the large revenue base for this increase."