December 8, 2004
Belo updates investment community
Management presents key business strategies, update on circulation at The Dallas Morning News, guidance on fourth quarter financial performance and full-year 2005 expectations
New York Belo Corp. (NYSE: BLC) presented at the UBS 32nd Annual Media Week Conference and the Credit Suisse First Boston 2004 Media Week Conference in New York 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, provided an in-depth look at the Company's operating strategy and outlined how Belo is positioning itself for the future. Decherd noted, "We have completed a thorough strategic review, begun in March, which sharpened our focus on Belo's core assets and affirmed attractive choices for how we use available investment and operating capital. We have looked at Belo's business opportunities comprehensively and have reallocated investments within the Company's income statement to take maximum advantage of these opportunities."
Decherd discussed the following management initiatives:
Decherd said, "The Circulation Review Team I appointed in August has identified interim process changes and long-term solutions for the Circulation Department of The Dallas Morning News. The intended outcomes of the recommendations, which cover each of the major circulation channels at The Dallas Morning News, are to ensure the integrity of The Morning News' circulation and improve the experience of customers with the product."
Decherd noted that 88 percent of the 19,000 checks issued under The Dallas Morning News' advertiser compensation plan have been cashed, representing 76 percent of the dollars. September 30, 2004 circulation for The Morning News is expected to be issued in a Publisher's Statement in early 2005 with declines very close to the numbers announced on September 29.
Decherd said, "Because circulation for the six months ending March 31, 2005 will be compared to the unadjusted circulation figures for the six months ended March 31, 2004, The Morning News will again experience a decrease in the reported circulation figures, as in the September 2004 period. Circulation for this period, and the September 2005 and March 2006 reporting periods, could also be affected by disruption to the normal distribution processes as The Morning News works through the important but laborious changes recommended by the Circulation Review Team. From that point forward, we expect a base will have been established from which The Dallas Morning News can and will build circulation."
Fourth Quarter 2004 Guidance
Dennis Williamson, Belo's senior corporate vice president/Chief Financial Officer, provided guidance for the fourth quarter of 2004 and detailed remarks about Belo's prospects for 2005. Regarding Belo's outlook for the fourth quarter of 2004, Williamson said total revenue for Belo's Television Group is expected to increase in the low-to-mid double digits including $28.5 million of political revenue. Total revenue for the Newspaper Group is expected to be flat to down one percent in the fourth quarter of 2004 versus the fourth quarter of 2003. An estimated mid-single digits decrease in advertising revenue at The Dallas Morning News is expected to temper projected increases at The Providence Journal and The Press-Enterprise of about 4 percent and 16 percent, respectively. The Company's operating costs and expenses are expected to increase approximately four percent versus the previous year's fourth quarter.
Williamson said the Company will likely revise slightly downward the charges taken in the third quarter related to both the circulation matter at The Dallas Morning News and the Belo/Time Warner joint ventures. Actual payments under The Morning News' advertiser compensation plan were approximately $20 million, or $1 million less than the Company's estimate at the end of the third quarter. In addition, Belo now expects to yield approximately $1 million more in proceeds than originally estimated from the dissolution of the assets of the Belo/Time Warner Cable news channels.
Williamson continued, "Based on the revenue and expense assumptions for the fourth quarter, and considering the $2 million in reductions to the charges described, earnings per share for the fourth quarter of 2004 are expected to be between $0.43 and $0.44, while full year earnings per share should be between $1.10 and $1.11."
Full-Year 2005 Guidance
Williamson stated, "In 2005, Belo's income statement will look somewhat different due to management decisions made in 2004. Although some components of revenue and expense will change, the net effect on earnings per share will be neutral to slightly positive."
Changes to Belo's 2005 income statement include:
Williamson illustrated Belo's prospects for 2005, noting, "This will be a challenging year for most newspaper and local television companies, and for Belo. Political revenues for Belo's Television Group exceeded $50 million in 2004, and will likely be in the $5-10 million range in 2005. Belo will have no Olympics revenue in 2005 versus almost $10 million in 2004. The Super Bowl will be on Fox, rather than one of the three networks where Belo's television station
affiliations are concentrated. And, a modest reduction in network compensation is expected. But, with mid-single digit revenue growth in spot revenue excluding political, Belo's Television Group revenues should be down only slightly versus 2004."
Williamson continued, "Revenues at The Dallas Morning News will continue to be affected by the use of advertiser credits associated with the advertiser compensation plan through the first quarter of 2005, and The Morning News will have difficult comparisons in preprint revenues throughout the year based on lower circulation. Still, revenue at The Morning News is expected to increase slightly for the full year. Revenues at The Providence Journal should grow in the mid-single digits while revenues at The Press-Enterprise should increase in the high-single digits for full-year 2005. For the Newspaper Group overall, revenues are currently expected to increase in the low-single digits in 2005."
The Company's operating costs and expenses are expected to increase four to five percent in 2005, including the incremental $10 million in marketing and promotion expense. Direct compensation and benefits expense is expected to increase three to four percent for full-year 2005. The reduction-in-force announced in October 2004 will result in incremental savings of approximately $13.1 million in 2005 that will largely offset increases in other personnel-related categories. Newsprint expense could increase 10 to 12 percent. The Television Group's programming expenses are well in hand, and are expected to decrease two to three percent.
Other Income/Expense will improve significantly in 2005 as the $6.5 million in Belo/Time Warner joint venture losses related to the first seven months of 2004 will not repeat. Other Income/Expense in 2005 is expected to now show income of approximately $2 million.
Williamson stated that the Company is not yet ready to provide full-year 2005 EPS guidance as The Dallas Morning News continues to work through the timing and effect of the advertiser credit bank and lower circulation for preprints on 2005 revenue for the newspaper. Belo management is applying the same level of management attention and discipline to this issue as to the rest of the circulation matter. The Company anticipates providing first quarter and full-year 2005 earnings per share ranges at the Bear Stearns Media & Entertainment Conference in early March. In the meantime, Belo will continue to provide financial updates on a regular basis through its monthly statistical reports.
Attached to this release and posted on the Company's Web site is Belo's detailed 2005 guidance. Additional information on Belo and its outlook for 2004 and 2005 is available online at www.belo.com/invest, including the full text of the presentations and the archived webcasts.
Belo Corp. 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 7,600 employees and $1.4 billion in annual revenues, Belo operates media franchises in some of America's most dynamic markets and regions, including Texas, the Northwest, the Southwest, Rhode Island, and the Mid-Atlantic. Belo owns 19 television stations (six in the top 15 markets); owns or operates seven cable news channels; and manages one television station through a local marketing agreement. Belo's daily newspapers are The Dallas Morning News, The Providence Journal, The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA) and the Denton Record-Chronicle (Denton, TX). Belo operates more than 30 Web sites, several interactive alliances and a broad range of Internet-based products. Additional information, including earnings releases and corporate communications, is available online at www.belo.com. For more information contact Carey Hendrickson, vice president/Investor Relations & Corporate Communications, at 214-977-6626.
Statements in this communication concerning Belo's business outlook or future economic performance, anticipated profitability, or other financial 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 other factors include, but are not limited to, changes in advertising demand, interest rates and newsprint prices; the current audit by the Audit Bureau of Circulations of The Dallas Morning News' circulation; 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.
Newspaper Group revenue
Expected to increase in the low-single digits
The Dallas Morning News revenue
Expected to increase slightly
The Providence Journal revenue
Expected to increase in the mid-single digits
The Press-Enterprise revenue
Expected to increase in the high-single digits
Television Group revenue
Expected to decrease slightly
Spot revenue excluding political
Expected to increase in the mid-single digits
Approximately $5-10 million
OPERATING COSTS AND EXPENSES
Total operating costs and expenses
Expected to increase four to five percent
Direct compensation and benefits expense
Expected to increase three to four percent
Could increase 10 to 12 percent
Expected to decrease two to three percent
Marketing and promotion expense
Expected to increase by $10 million
Expected to increase about two percent
Expected to be flat
Expected to show income of $2 million
Expected to be flat to down slightly
Effective tax rate
Expected to be approximately 38.5 percent