While many observers argue that recent profit swings for Gannett (NYSE: GCI), McClatchy (NYSE: MNI) and other newspaper publishers will be short lived, Ariel Investments CEO John Rogers Jr. is far more bullish. In fact, Rogers tells Bloomberg that he expects the newspapers to defy analysts dour projections and post profits for the next five or six quarters.
As one of the largest investors in Gannett and McClatchy, Rogers probably has good reason to cheer the companies and on and hope the analysts are proven wrong. He insists that despite the ad declines, aggressive cost-cutting will pay off even beyond the next year. Over the next couple of years, people are going to be surprised by the earnings power of newspaper publishers, said Rogers, who is also an investor in Lee Enterprises (NYSE: LEE). “They dont even have to get anything near the revenue of three or four years ago.”
Just before Gannett’s Q1 earnings came out in April—its profits fell 60 percent compared to Q108—Ariel boosted its stake to roughly 12.5 percent of Gannetts outstanding shares, more than doubling its previous 4.9 percent holding.
While Ariel is upbeat about its newspaper holdings in general, it seems to prefer Gannett over McClatchy, since the former is much more diversified, with its TV stations and its digital properties, including social-media tech provider Ripple6 and rich-media company PointRoll. Rogers doesn’t say in the interview whether he has any concerns about the companies’ ability to manage their sizable debt, even if the ad market does pick up again.
By David Kaplan