Gannett's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Gannett (GCI)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 16, 2012 10:00 am ET

Executives

Jeffrey Heinz - Director of Investor Relations

Gracia C. Martore - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Robert J. Dickey - President of U.S. Community Publishing Division and Senior Group President of Pacific Newspaper Group

Paul N. Saleh - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Analysts

John Janedis - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Alexia S. Quadrani - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Douglas M. Arthur - Evercore Partners Inc., Research Division

Craig Huber

James C. Goss - Barrington Research Associates, Inc., Research Division

Edward J. Atorino - The Benchmark Company, LLC, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good day, everyone, and welcome to Gannett's First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. This call is being recorded. [Operator Instructions] Our speakers for today will be: Jeff Heinz, Gracia Martore, Bob Dickey and Paul Saleh. And at this time, I'd like to turn the call over to Jeff Heinz. Please go ahead, sir.

Jeffrey Heinz

Thanks, Matt. Good morning, and welcome to our conference call and webcast to review Gannett's first quarter 2011 results. Hopefully, you have had the opportunity to review this morning's press release. If you've not seen it yet, it is available at www.gannett.com.

Before we get started, however, I need to remind you that this conference call and webcast include forward-looking statements, and our actual results may differ. Factors that might cause them to differ are outlined in our SEC filings. This presentation also includes certain non-GAAP financial measures. We have provided reconciliations of those measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures in the press release and on our Investor Relations portion of our website.

With that, let me turn the call over to Gracia.

Gracia C. Martore

Thanks, Jeff, and good morning, everyone. I'm pleased you're able to join us today. Paul Saleh, our Chief Financial Officer, is here with me, and together we will be discussing our first quarter results and an update on the integrated growth strategy and cash flow-funded capital programs that we unveiled at our Investor Day in February. Bob Dickey, President of U.S. Community Publishing, is also here and will discuss early progress on our new content subscription model.

The strategy and capital allocation plan we discussed 8 weeks ago defines the path we are taking to position Gannett for success in the digital age and reflects the financial discipline underpinning all of our work. As we explained in February, we are executing an ambitious but achievable plan to revitalize our company. The media landscape is evolving rapidly, and we intend to be a leader in a reshaped industry. We expect the work currently going on across the company, as well as our continuing plans, will put Gannett on a sustainable growth trajectory and enable us to return more than $1.3 billion to shareholders by 2015.

Now let me begin by turning to the first quarter. And as expected and as we shared with you at our Investor Day, our results were impacted by the uneven and somewhat sluggish U.S. economic recovery, a particularly challenging start in January for advertising overall and the planned investments we made in growth initiatives that we will detail in a few moments. On track with our forecasted EPS, total revenue was approximately 3% lower than a year ago and total expenses, excluding special items, were basically unchanged. Earnings per share in the quarter, when adjusted for special items, were $0.34, which exceeds the $0.28 to $0.32 range we provided on Investor Day, as well as the First Call consensus, in part due to slightly lower-than-expected spending on strategic investments this quarter.

As we said in February, the investments we are making this year in our growth strategy would be front-loaded. In this quarter, again, we invested about $20 million of the expected $65 million outlay we will make this year. Our results also reflect higher pension expense, which we also previously discussed, and several special items.

Each of our business segments had solid performances this quarter. We continue to generate substantial free cash flow, which we will use to return capital to shareholders, to self-fund our growth strategy and to continue to pay down debt. Operating income from the quarter, excluding special items, was approximately $157 million, and operating cash flow was $204 million. These numbers included the impact of the investments in our strategic initiatives. And by the way, the initiative investments had about a 150-basis-point impact on our operating margins overall. That also translates to a 200-basis-point impact on the operating margin in the Publishing segment and a 100-basis-point impact on the already terrific margins in Broadcasting.

Our Digital and Broadcasting segments, both of which experienced growth, accounted for about 50% of this quarter's operating income, excluding special items and the initiative investment. Digital had solid revenue growth of about 7% and Broadcasting, about 8%. These revenue results were offset again by continuing soft advertising demand in Publishing. The 7% revenue growth in our Digital segment resulted in revenue of $168 million in the segment this quarter. CareerBuilder again represented the lion's share of this segment's revenue and again led the way with gains of over 10% over last year. CareerBuilder is the clear North American market leader, and better execution than their competitors allowed them to capture market share again this quarter. Additionally, CareerBuilder had significant growth in its international business, and expansion in selected markets remains a key area of focus.

Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com

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