Updated from 9 a.m. EST
, the magazine publisher seeking to make a mark in the Internet world, reported a charge in its earnings report that matched the high end of expectations.
For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, the New York City-based company reported a net loss of $52.1 million, or 45 cents a diluted share, from a loss of $11.6 million, or 16 cents a share, a year earlier. The consensus estimate of analysts polled by
First Call/Thomson Financial
was a loss of 5 cents.
Though it looks like Primedia significantly missed Wall Street's expectations, analysts caution that Primedia is not an earnings-per-share-driven company as it is not making money.
Primedia took a noncash charge of $275.8 million for the writedown of certain assets in its workplace learning unit. It had
warned of a $225 million-$275 million charge for the quarter last month.
Revenue rose to $455.6 million from $446.2 million a year ago.
There was some disappointment on the part of Wall Street that revenue growth at Primedia's information segment was slower than anticipated. It was up only 4.3%, to $89.9 million from $86.2 million a year ago, which was puzzling since its Apartment Guide Publications segment, a group of free rental apartment directories, is doing well. In an interview, chairman and chief executive Tom Rogers attributed it to slowness year on year in the specialized business directory segment. "It's an area that hasn't gotten much attention and just needs more attention," he said.
The publisher of
magazines also reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and provision for one-time charges of $96.4 million, compared to $108.1 million a year earlier. That included EBIDTA losses of $16.1 million from spending on the buildup of the Internet business on a pro forma basis and $6.1 million from overhead related to the change in chief executive, as well as a gain of $7.3 million for the supplemental education group divested during the quarter.
Rogers said in a statement: "2000 must be a year of accelerating revenue and EBITDA growth and continued margin expansion in our traditional media businesses as we invest in new media opportunities." He joined the company at the end of September from
, a unit of
, with the objective of focusing Primedia's business.
"He is trying very hard to unlock the value of the company," said
analyst Karl Choi of Rogers. He rates Primedia a long-term buy and his firm took the company public.
Analysts are anticipating the company's meeting with them on Mar. 30, where Rogers will talk about "what the company is and where it's going. And give some indication of our growth strategy, cost structure, divesting of assets and creating better focus."
He also spoke of
Los Angeles Magazine
, which Primedia bid for and lost, to
: "That was a unique property, which would have filled out the top three markets." Primedia already owns
New York Magazine
. As for future acquisitions, he said, "We'll do a certain amount of acquisitions still. Though most of this company's growth has been based on acquisitions and I am more focused on organic growth, I would be willing to do acquisitions."
One type of acquisition the company is concentrating on is the swapping of advertising inventory, or free advertising space, for stakes in new media companies. The company announced today that it's taken a stake in
, an online service launched by
and publisher Steven Brill of
Brill Media Holdings
magazine to sell content, including magazines and books, on the Web.
"This was our first ad-for-equity deal and it also relates to the core of our business, which is the selling of magazines," Rogers said. "We are looking at many other deals like this."
Midafternoon, Primedia was trading down 3/16, or 1%, to 17 1/2. (It closed up 1/2, or 2.8%, at 18 3/16.)