McClatchy ‘profit’ debatable; more job cuts hinted

The McClatchy Company continues to be hampered by debt, with a reported loss in the latest quarter attributed “primarily to one-time charges for refinancing debt and restructuring,” according to the Sacramento Business Journal.

The publisher’s first quarter report on Thursday showed improvement, thanks to reduced expenses — obtained chiefly through layoffs, which may not be over  — and an advertising climate that isn’t as bad as it was.

But the bottom line was  “a net loss from continuing operations of $2 million, or 2 cents per share,” the Business Journal says. “In the same period last year, the company incurred a net loss from continuing operations of $37.7 million, or 45 cents per share.

“Without the charges, McClatchy earned $4.8 million, or 6 cents a share, for the quarter, compared to a loss of $22.9 million, or 28 cents a share, in first-quarter 2009.”

The Associated Press report, on the other hand, says “a one-time accounting gain related to newspapers that it sold a few years ago” allows McClatchy to claim a profit for the quarter. “[N]et income, including discontinued operations, came to $2.2 million, or 3 cents per share,” the AP says. It lost $37.5 million, or 45 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier, which included charges for severance.

Advertising revenue dropped 11.2 percent to $253 million, better than the 20.5 percent drop in the fourth quarter of 2009. In last year’s third quarter, ad revenue fell 28.1 percent.

Total revenue for the quarter was 8.2 percent less than a year ago, at $335.6 million compared to $365.6 million.

McClatchy’s stock fell following the report, perhaps, Benchmark Co. media analyst Edward Atorino told the AP, because “some investors may have been looking for more details about how McClatchy plans to cut costs, given that it expects further revenue declines.”

The company’s  costs, excluding severance payments, declined more than 21 percent in the first quarter, compared with the same period a year earlier, largely because of lower payroll and newsprint expense, the AP said. McClatchy has cut about a third of its work force since the middle of 2008.

“In a statement, McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt said the company ‘will remain vigilant’ on costs but acknowledged that second-quarter expenses will not decline the way they did in the first,” the AP said. “During a conference call, Pruitt said the company would try to avoid further job cuts, but he didn’t rule them out.”

The debt restructuring involved extending  “approximately $1 billion in maturities from mid-2011 to mid-2013 and beyond, including the $875 million of senior secured notes due in 2017,” Pat Talamantes, McClatchy’s chief financial officer, said in the release.

McClatchy’s debt remains from its $4.5 billion purchase in 2006 of the much-larger Knight-Ridder newspaper chain.

McClatchy’s stock fell $0.75, or 10.98 percent, to close at $6.08 Thursday.

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