December 11, 2002
Belo updates investment community on key business strategies
New York, NY -- Belo (NYSE: BLC) presented at the CS First Boston 2002 Media Week Conference and the UBS Warburg 30th Annual Media Week Conference in New York City today, providing guidance to the investment community on the Company's business strategies, operations and financial performance.
Robert W. Decherd, Belo's chairman, president and chief executive officer, said: "2002 has been a strong year for Belo, resulting in record free cash flow.
Our Television Group experienced tremendous growth in advertising revenues as the year progressed, and our Newspaper Group showed steady improvement quarter-to-quarter. Operating momentum continues to build, and because of the leadership positions Belo holds in so many of our markets, we're optimistic that progress will continue into 2003 and beyond.
"I am especially proud of the many initiatives undertaken by individual Belo employees during 2002 to achieve these outstanding results. Colleagues throughout the Company have made personal sacrifices to ensure that Belo enters 2003 in the best possible shape."
Decherd reviewed the key investment considerations, citing the Company's leadership in its regional clusters - Texas, the Northwest and the Southwest. Decherd said, "Belo has proven time and again that distinguished journalism and deep community involvement translate into audiences and revenue opportunities."
Dunia A. Shive, Belo's executive vice president and chief financial officer, provided guidance for the fourth quarter of 2002 and commented on Belo's prospects for 2003. Regarding Belo's outlook for the fourth quarter of 2002, Shive said that the Company currently expects Television Group spot revenue to be up about 20 percent in the fourth quarter overall. Belo's Television Group recorded $28 million of political revenue in October and the first few days of November. After the political season, the Television Group has continued to experience strong demand for spot advertising.
Shive noted that Newspaper Group revenue is expected to be up in the mid-single digits in the fourth quarter of 2002 versus the fourth quarter of 2001.
Shive stated that the Company's total cash expenses are expected to be about five percent higher than the previous year's fourth quarter. Performance-related bonuses, pension expense, insurance expense and sales commission expense will be higher in the fourth quarter of 2002 versus the fourth quarter of 2001 as noted on the Company's third quarter earnings conference call. Newsprint expense is expected to be lower than the prior year's fourth quarter by 10 to 13 percent, considerably less than the mid-20 percent decreases in the first three quarters of the year. In addition, a return to normal merit increases, after lifting the Company's 12-month wage freeze in October, will eliminate the positive direct compensation variances Belo experienced in the first three quarters of 2002.
Shive added, "Based on strength in advertising demand in both our Television Group and Newspaper Group, we believe the Company's fourth quarter earnings per share could be two to three cents higher than our previous guidance of $0.34 to $0.36."
Commenting on the outlook for 2003, Shive said, "We expect the underlying advertising environment to remain solid for our television stations and to continue to improve for our newspapers. The upfront and scatter advertising markets for the television networks have been very strong, which bodes well for spot television revenues as we begin 2003. Total cash expenses are expected to increase four to five percent in 2003 mostly due to increases in newsprint expense, various benefits expenses and insurance costs. Excluding the increases in these categories, cash expenses are expected to increase less than three percent.
"The Company's investment in Belo Interactive will drop from about $11 million in 2002 to a projected $7 million in 2003. Belo's total depreciation and amortization expense in 2003 should be about the same as 2002. Capital expenditures are planned to increase from the Company's reduced expenditure level of $60 - $65 million in both 2001 and 2002 to $85 - $90 million in 2003. Interest expense should decrease slightly in 2003 due to the paydown of debt during 2002 and expected paydown in 2003. The effective tax rate in 2003 should be about 39 percent."
Additional information on Belo and its outlook for 2002 and 2003 is available online at www.belo.com, including the full text of the presentations and the archived webcast.
Belo is one of the nation's largest media companies with a diversified group of market-leading television, newspaper, cable and interactive media assets. A Fortune 1000 company with approximately 7,800 employees and $1.4 billion in annual revenues, Belo operates news and information franchises in some of America's most dynamic markets and regions, including Texas, the Northwest, the Southwest, Rhode Island, and the Mid-Atlantic region. Belo owns 19 television stations (six in the top 16 markets) reaching 13.9 percent of U.S. television households; owns or operates six cable news channels; and manages one television station through a local marketing agreement. Belo publishes four daily newspapers: The Dallas Morning News, The Providence Journal, The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA) and the Denton Record-Chronicle (Denton, TX). Belo Interactive's new media businesses include 34 Web sites, several interactive alliances, and a broad range of Internet-based products.
Statements in this communication concerning the Company's business outlook or future economic performance, anticipated profitability, revenues, expenses, capital expenditures, investments or other financial or operating items and other statements that are not historical facts, are "forward-looking statements" as the term is defined under applicable Federal Securities Laws. Forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those statements.
Such risks, uncertainties and factors include, but are not limited to, changes in advertising demand, interest rates and newsprint prices; technological changes; development of Internet commerce; industry cycles; changes in pricing or other actions by competitors and suppliers; regulatory changes; the effects of Company acquisitions and dispositions; general economic conditions; and significant armed conflict, as well as other risks detailed in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"), including the Annual Report on Form 10-K.
For more information, contact Dunia Shive, Belo's executive vice president and chief financial officer, or Carey Hendrickson, Belo's vice president of investor relations, at 214-977-6606. Additional information on Belo is available online at www.belo.com.