January 12, 2005
Belo presents at Smith Barney Citigroup conference
Phoenix, AZ -- Belo Corp. (NYSE: BLC) presented at the Smith Barney Citigroup Fifteenth Annual Global Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference in Phoenix today, providing an overview of the Company's business strategies and operations, and an update on the financial impact, and timing, of certain circulation matters at The Dallas Morning News.
Dennis Williamson, Belo's senior corporate vice president/Chief Financial Officer, noted, "Belo experienced strong financial performance in 2004 overall. In our Television Group, political revenue far exceeded our initial expectations, totaling $52.5 million for the year, and we had solid Olympics revenue at our NBC affiliates of almost $10 million. In the Newspaper Group, total revenue at The Press-Enterprise in Riverside grew at an industry-leading rate of approximately 14 percent with advertising revenue growth of nearly 17 percent. For 2004 as a whole, 15 of Belo's 25 operating companies achieved record revenue levels and five others came very close to achieving the same."
Belo did not update fourth quarter 2004 earnings per share guidance. The Company plans to report fourth quarter earnings on February 10, 2005, before the market opens, with a conference call to discuss details regarding the fourth quarter at 9 a.m. Central time.
Full-Year 2005 Outlook
Regarding Belo's outlook for 2005, Williamson summarized comments made by Company management at the December 2004 Media Week Conferences, "We expect 2005 to be a challenging year for most newspaper and local television companies, and for Belo as well."
Williamson continued, "With total TV Group revenues decreasing only slightly in 2005, the Television Group should make up most of the $60-plus million in political and Olympics revenue generated in 2004. Newspaper Group revenues are expected to increase in the low-single digits in 2005 with an expected mid-single digit increase at The Providence Journal and a high-single digit increase at The Press-Enterprise. The Dallas Morning News will continue to be affected by lower preprint revenue associated with lower circulation throughout the year and revenue displacement caused by advertisers' use of their credit banks in the first quarter.
"Operating costs and expenses are expected to increase four to five percent in 2005, including an increase in marketing and promotion expense of $10 million. Direct compensation and benefits will increase three to four percent. For planning purposes, a 10 to 12 percent increase in newsprint expense for 2005 was assumed. Programming expenses at Belo's Television Group are expected to decrease two to three percent in 2005.
"Belo Interactive will no longer be reported as a separate entity, so the Interactive Media segment will be eliminated. These revenues and expenses will now be accumulated in the Television Group, Newspaper Group and Corporate segments, as appropriate, with no associated impact on EPS. All interactive revenues will now be included in the operating unit associated with each respective Web site. A large percentage of BI's expenses will be similarly allocated to the respective operating units, with the remaining expenses included in Corporate expense in 2005. Expenses held at Corporate will be approximately $13 million in 2005, related primarily to product development and the management of the common technology platform of our Web sites."
Williamson continued, "At the time of the December conferences, our management teams were in the midst of understanding the 2005 impact, and timing, of lower circulation for preprints, the advertiser credit bank, and recommended changes to the circulation practices of The Dallas Morning News, among other matters, and we provided preliminary information for the planning and modeling purposes of the investment community. Over the last several weeks, we have applied a significant amount of management attention and discipline to these matters, providing us with somewhat greater clarity about these items.
"There is a direct correlation between the number of preprints distributed by The Dallas Morning News and circulation. With lower circulation throughout 2005, preprint revenues at The Dallas Morning News will, therefore, be lower in each quarter of 2005 versus the prior year. We currently expect the full-year impact on The Morning News' preprint revenue in 2005 to be between $7 and $9 million.
"From September through December 2004, advertisers used approximately $8 million in advertising credits available to them through The Morning News' advertiser compensation plan. We estimate that approximately 80 percent of these credits offset advertising that otherwise would have been recorded as revenue by The Morning News. The advertising credits negatively impacted revenue growth percentages in the fourth quarter of 2004, so we project that revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 2005 will be favorably impacted by a like amount.
"The credit bank expires for most advertisers by the end of the first quarter of 2005. We currently estimate that $5 to $7 million in credits will be used in the first quarter. Like 2004, most of these credits will displace advertising that otherwise would be recorded as revenue by The Morning News and, similar to the fourth quarter of 2005, revenue growth in the first quarter of 2006 should then be favorably impacted by a like amount.
"We noted in December that the recommendations of the Circulation Review Team ("CRT") at The Dallas Morning News will affect the P&L in several ways. When the total effect of all the CRT's recommendations are fully realized in 2006, we expect an annual increase in EBITDA of about $5 million. But as we transition through these changes in 2005, there will be impact on expense before revenue benefits are realized. For full-year 2005, the circulation revenue increase related to these recommendations should be $5 to $8 million with expense increases of $7 to $8 million."
A more complete update on Belo's expectations for 2005, including full-year EPS ranges, will be provided in late February. Additional information on Belo is available online at www.belo.com, including the full text of the presentation and the archived webcast.
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.