Belo ( BLC) dropped 5% Wednesday after the newspaper company cut first-quarter targets. The warning, issued late Tuesday, sits in stark contrast to peer E.W. Scripps ( SSP), which earlier Tuesday released figures that show it is tracking well this year. Dallas-based Belo now currently expects to make 13 cents to 15 cents a share for the first quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were forecasting 20 cents. "Belo's revenue growth in the first quarter will be strong, with gains across all operating segments," Belo Chairman Robert Decherd said. "Television Group advertising revenue growth has accelerated as the quarter has progressed while the advertising market has been more challenging for Belo's newspapers than originally anticipated." The hit comes as newspaper divisions nationwide struggle. The company said its newspaper group, which includes the The Dallas Morning News and The Providence Journal, saw advertising revenue increase 5.2% in January versus last year but "decrease slightly" in February. Consolidated revenue for February increased 9.4% from a year before, with an 18% rise at the TV group overshadowing a 2% increase in the newspaper division. "On the expense side, the first quarter will be the most difficult quarter of 2006 because it is affected by the recording of expenses related to the change in circulation distribution methods at The Dallas Morning News, the timing of various expenses versus last year, and expenses related to new products launched in the second half of 2005," the company said. Belo's first-quarter results will include $7 million in incremental circulation expenses associated with the change in distribution methods at The Dallas Morning News. The first quarter will also include almost $3 million in incremental stock-based compensation that Belo began expensing in January, in accordance with new accounting rules. By contrast, Cincinnati-based newspaper and TV company E.W. Scripps said February's results showed continued strength at its cable outlets and incremental revenue from the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl at its TV stations. In its newspaper division, revenue rose 5.2% to $58.9 million, as newspaper advertising grew 6.7% during February.
At Scripps television stations, February revenue was up 34% to $30.2 million, driven by the Super Bowl on six of its ABC affiliates and the Olympics on the company's three NBC affiliated stations. On Wednesday, Belo slipped $1.03 to $20.31.