Tribune Co. 1Q Profit Falls 30 Percent

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/MCT) -

Tribune Co. said Tuesday that its net income declined by 30 percent in the first quarter, as gains in broadcast revenues were offset by double-digit publishing declines and higher expenses.

Net income was $41.1 million, or 41 cents per share, compared with $58.4 million, or 58 cents per share, a year ago. Tribune Co. had an operating profit of $74 million, an 11 percent decline.

Consolidated revenue for the first quarter was $852 million, up 21 percent from the same quarter last year. The acquisition of Local TV increased revenue by nearly $145 million, the Chicago-based media company said Tuesday.

Operating expenses jumped 25 percent to $156 million.

“In the first quarter of 2014 we demonstrated early signs of the strength of our new broadcast scale,” Peter Liguori, Tribune Co. president and CEO, said in a statement. “We are also encouraged by the activity we are seeing in the political landscape and its prospects for advertising for the second half of 2014.”

Publishing revenue fell 3 percent to $454 million, with the largest declines at the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun. Advertising revenue was down by 8 percent, with retail advertising accounting for most of the decline. Classified advertising was flat and digital advertising increased by 5 percent for the quarter.

Circulation revenue was flat in the first quarter, with higher sales of digital editions offset by print sales declines.

Publishing expenses were down by 1 percent, but operating profit fell 17 percent, or $8 million, compared with the same quarter last year. Tribune Publishing, which includes the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and six other daily newspapers, is set to spin off as a separate company by midyear.

“Our newspapers continued to deliver very good results in a challenging environment, and we are confident in the prospects for that business as we move closer to spinning it off from Tribune Company,” Liguori said in a statement.

Tribune Co. corporate expenses were $28 million for the quarter, up $18 million year over year. Professional fees related to the upcoming spinoff of Tribune Publishing and recent acquisitions accounted for about half of that increase, with the balance tied to higher compensation expense.

Overall, the company reduced staffing by 65 employees in the first quarter, down from a reduction of 70 employees in the first quarter of 2013.