March 9, 2004
Belo updates investment community on first quarter outlook
Palm Beach, FL --Belo Corp. (NYSE: BLC) presented at the Bear Stearns 17th Annual Media, Entertainment & Information Conference in Palm Beach, Florida, today, updating the investment community on the Companys business strategies, operations and financial outlook for the first quarter of 2004.
Dunia A. Shive, Belos executive vice president/Media Operations, said: At Belo, our operating strategy is focused on controlling our destiny. We have the right people in place to execute this strategy and our operating companies are well-positioned in their markets. As we look toward a continued economic recovery, we believe we are in an excellent position to capitalize on the opportunities available in our markets.
Dennis A. Williamson, Belos senior corporate vice president and chief financial officer, provided guidance for the first quarter of 2004 and commented on Belos prospects for the remainder of the year. Williamson said Belos Television Group revenues were up almost 15 percent in February with an 18 percent increase in local revenues and a six percent increase in national revenues. March spot revenues are expected to increase in the high-single digits. Belos Television Group revenues for the first quarter should increase in the high-single digits. Belos Newspaper Group revenues increased about 14 percent in February, which included one more Sunday and, because 2004 is a leap year, one more day than February 2003. February revenues would have been up about 5.5 percent on a comparable basis. Newspaper Group revenues are expected to decrease in the mid-single digits in March, which has one less Sunday versus the prior year. For the first quarter overall, the Company expects its Newspaper Group advertising revenues to be up about five percent.
Williamson noted that, as discussed on Belo's year-end earnings conference call, the first quarter of 2004 will be affected by expenses associated with new products launched at Belos newspapers in the second half of 2003, principally Quick and al dia in Dallas and the d at The Press-Enterprise in Riverside. Startup costs associated with these new products will be $4 to $5 million in the first quarter, which will add about two percentage points to Belo's first quarter expense variance, as there were no comparative expenses in the first quarter of 2003. Excluding expenses associated with these new products, the Company expects total operating costs and expenses to increase in the mid-single digits in the first quarter of 2004. Based on this guidance, the Company currently estimates first quarter earnings per share to be in the range of $0.16 to $0.17, an increase of $0.02 to $0.03 over the first quarter of 2003.
Addressing the remainder of 2004, Williamson said, We are optimistic about the prospects for revenue growth for both the Television Group and Newspaper Group in 2004. In addition to the anticipated progression of the economic recovery, we expect Belo's Television Group to benefit from political and Olympics revenue due to the leadership positions of our television stations. Revenues for the Newspaper Group are expected to improve in 2004 with a strengthening economy and incremental revenues provided by new products launched in 2003.
Additional information on Belo and its outlook for 2004 is available online at www.belo.com, including the full text of the Bear Stearns presentation.
Belo Corp. is one of the nations largest media companies with a diversified group of market-leading television, newspaper, cable and interactive media assets. A Fortune 1000 company with approximately 7,900 employees and $1.4 billion in annual revenues, Belo operates news and information franchises in some of Americas 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 15 markets) reaching 13.8 percent of U.S. television households; owns or operates 10 cable news channels; and manages one television station through a local marketing agreement. Belos daily newspapers include The Dallas Morning News, The Providence Journal, The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA) and the Denton Record-Chronicle (Denton, TX). Belo Interactives new media businesses include more than 30 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, commitments, 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, including the Annual Report on Form 10-K.
For more information, contact Carey Hendrickson, vice president of investor relations, at 214-977-6606. Additional information, including earnings releases, is available online at www.belo.com.