( DJ) reported solid third quarter results that met or beat analyst earnings and revenue expectations despite higher newsprint costs and a sharp decrease in political advertising.
Gannett earned $279 million, or $1.03 a share, on revenue of $1.63 billion, both up about 5% compared to the third quarter last year. The company cited greater demand for travel, telecommunications, retail and pharmaceutical related advertising at
which, as a national newspaper, is less susceptible to fluctuations in political, local retail and help wanted advertising. Revenue at the paper rose 5%, helping to offset a 6% decline in revenue at its television properties. The company offered no new guidance on the fourth quarter. Gannett stock opened up 31 cents at $80.25 just shy of its 52 week high of $81.55.
Scripps earned $51.9 million, or 64 cents a share, on revenue of $441 million for the quarter, citing advertising strength and broadcast properties Home & Garden Television and Food Network, while also citing soft help-wanted advertising in keeping newspaper profits flat. Newspaper revenue of $164 million and segment profits of $60.9 million were about even with the same period in 2002. Scripps stock opened up 83 cents at $88.82, 8 cents short of its 52-week high of $88.90.
Dow Jones earned $9 million, 11 cents a share, on revenue of $376 million during the third quarter ended Sept. 30, 2003. Revenue increased 6.7% versus the year ago period driven by a sharp increase in advertising volume at the
Wall Street Journal
primarily in the month of September. While cautioning that the company doesn't see an end to the business advertising recession, it does think the slump in business advertising has hit bottom. The company said that it expects to earn about 40 cents a share before special charges in the fourth quarter, in line with analyst expectations assuming single digit advertising volume growth at the Journal compared with last year's fourth quarter. On a segment basis, the company's profits are driven by positive net income at its online division where paid subscriptions have grown 3% versus a year ago and community newspapers. Its print publishing segment had negative operating income for the period. Dow Jones stock opened at $51.61 also just short of its 52 week high of $52.
Stockholders have enjoyed 2003 with Gannett up 8%, Scripps up 11% and Dow Jones up 17% since the beginning of the year.
Based on current share prices, Scripps trades at a price-to-earnings ratio of 24 times 2004 earnings versus 16 for Gannett, 39 for Dow Jones, 17 for