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Publishers Post Higher Earnings

Gannett and Knight Ridder see net income rise in the fourth quarter.
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posted steady gains in fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday.

McLean, Va.-based Gannett earned $378.1 million, or $1.47 a share, in the quarter, compared with $358 million, or $1.31 a share, a year ago. Revenue rose about 8% from a year ago to $1.96 billion. Analysts were forecasting earnings of $1.47 a share on sales of $1.97 billion.

The company said newspaper revenue rose 6.4% from last year to $1.7 billion in the fourth quarter, while broadcasting revenue jumped 18.7% from last year to $233.4 million. On a comparable basis, local newspaper ad revenue rose 5.2% from last year, while classified increased 8.7% and national ad revenue was unchanged.

San Jose, Calif.-based Knight Ridder earned $107.2 million, or $1.38 a share, in the fourth quarter, compared with $99 million, or $1.22 a share, last year. Revenue rose 3% to $819.4 million. Analysts had been forecasting earnings of $1.29 a share in the 2004 quarter excluding a gain, a target Knight-Ridder matched.

The company said it's on track to achieve mid- to high-single-digit earnings growth in 2005, although it was cautious on the first quarter.

"It is worth pointing out ... that first-quarter comparisons will be challenging due to overall revenue growth being weakest in the current period; the Easter shift, which benefited the first quarter last year, will benefit the second quarter this year; a number of new revenue initiatives with ramp-up expenses will launch in the first quarter; revenue benefits from these initiatives will come in later in the year," the company said.