Earnings: Media Gen Swings To Q4 Loss; Interactive Revs Rise 10 Percent

This story was written by David Kaplan.
Media General (NYSE: MEG) posted a net loss for Q4 of $85.5 million ($3.86 per diluted share) on a pre-tax impairment charge of $130.4 million ($83.1 million after-tax). This is a turnaround from last year, when the Richmond, VA-based newspaper company said that Publishing Division profit plummeted 57.2 percent from the prior yearand that doesn't include severance charges.  Total revenues at the unit fell 16.8 percent, while ad revs declined 20.1 percent.

Interactive up 10 percent: While a number of newspaper publishers have seen even their online ad revenues fall, Media Gen's grew a respectable 10 percent in the quarter. Surprisingly, local online revenues were considered a major contributor, rising 43 percent over Q407. Media Gen's digital revs were also boosted by money coming in from DealTaker.com, the online shopping site it bought in March '08. The interactive unit even managed to narrow its operating loss to $1.6 million versus last year's loss of $2.6 million.

Classifieds: The main drag on newspapers the past few years have been classifieds and Media Gen wasn't spared. The segment's Q4 revs fell $14.2 million, or 37.6 percent, from last year driven by shortfalls in all markets, but most significantly in the company's three metro newspaper markets. Metro employment revs decreased 60 percent as real estate revenues were down 50 percent, and automotive revenues declined 46 percent.  The only one in the plus side column was legal classifieds, which increased due to real estate foreclosure listings.

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By David Kaplan