New York Times

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posted a jump in first-quarter profit, citing higher advertising revenue and lower newsprint costs.

The company also said a war-related decline in advertising has begun to slow, but still could affect current levels.

The company earned $68.8 million, or 45 cents a share, compared with $54.5 million, or 35 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts were expecting 42 cents a share. Revenue rose 6.3% to $783.7 million from $737.1 million in the year-earlier period. Advertising revenue grew 5%, the company said, and circulation revenue rose 9.8%.

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"Our first-quarter results improved over those in the same period a year ago as we benefited from increased advertising revenues, continued circulation revenue growth and lower newsprint expense," said Chief Executive Russell T. Lewis. "In March, however, advertising began to weaken, particularly in travel-related categories, when it became apparent that war was imminent and advertisers delayed placements."

The company said March advertising revenue in its newspaper group fell 1.6%. "With the onset of the war in Iraq, advertising weakened, particularly in travel-related categories such as transportation and hotels, adversely affecting the overall results for the month," said Lewis.

"The impact of the war on advertising has already begun to moderate but we still expect to see an effect in the second quarter," said Lewis. For the second quarter, analysts expect earnings of 56 cents a share. The company earned 52 cents a share in the second quarter of 2002.

The company expects its full-year 2003 EPS growth rate to be in the mid-single digits to low double digits. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call expect earnings of $2.17 a share for the year compared with $1.97 in 2002.

Shares of the company were up 1% at $45.13 in morning trading.