December 6, 2005
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 2006 expectations
New York - Belo Corp. (NYSE: BLC) presented today at the UBS Media Week Conference and the Credit Suisse First Boston Global Media Week Conference in New York, providing guidance to the investment community on the Company's business strategies, operations and financial performance. The full text of the presentation and a replay of the Webcast are available on Belo's Web site on the Investor Relations page at www.belo.com.
Robert W. Decherd, Belo's chairman, president and chief executive officer, highlighted Belo's progress in 2005 toward operational and strategic goals and outlined how Belo is positioning itself for the future. Decherd noted, "We successfully completed strategic initiatives in 2005 that have positively impacted our operating and financial performance and will continue to have both intermediate and long-term benefits that support our plans in 2006 and beyond. Our marketing and sales initiatives are capitalizing on improving economic trends, and we are extending our leadership positions through innovative new products that appeal to audiences and advertisers alike."
Decherd provided an outline of several strategic initiatives for 2006:
Providing an update on circulation matters at The Dallas Morning News, Decherd said, "The Circulation Review Team established in August 2004 has already implemented many improvements and expects to have all recommendations in place by mid-2006. The changes being made are fundamental, system-wide changes that we expect to result in best-in-class practices in every aspect of The Morning News' circulation and distribution processes."
On November 21, the Audit Bureau of Circulations ("ABC") included the circulation figures filed by The Dallas Morning News for the six-month period ended September 30, 2005 in its supplemental FAS-FAX. These figures, which remain subject to audit, show daily circulation of 465,469 and Sunday circulation of 640,744, or decreases of approximately 2.8 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively, versus the six-month period ended March 31, 2005. The decreases primarily represent normal seasonal trends and are in line with the goals the Company stated at the Mid-Year Media Review in June.
Comparing The Morning News' supplemental FAS-FAX figures for September 2005 to the unaudited September 2004 figures issued by Belo, daily and Sunday circulation decreased approximately 6.6 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively. These decreases are primarily the result of the disruption of normal distribution processes related to the many circulation process improvements implemented over the past year at The Morning News.
Decherd continued, "Looking to the March 2006 reporting period, we believe circulation at The Morning News will be on a steady state basis with March 2005, even with continued process re-engineering. We are then going to assess third-party barter circulation at The Morning News, a process that is already underway at The Providence Journal. We are looking to achieve the most profitable circulation possible while providing advertisers with the circulation they most desire. Any reduction in third-party circulation should have a slightly positive effect on EBITDA."
Fourth Quarter 2005 Guidance
Dennis Williamson, Belo's senior corporate vice president/Chief Financial Officer, provided guidance for the fourth quarter of 2005 and commented on Belo's prospects for 2006.
Regarding Belo's outlook for the fourth quarter of 2005, Williamson said, "Television Group spot revenue is expected to be down in the high-single digits including political, which is slightly better than our previous guidance of down low-double digits. Spot revenue excluding political is expected to be up mid-single digits. For the Newspaper Group, fourth quarter ad revenue is expected to be up in the mid-single digits, in-line with previous guidance. Ad revenue at The Dallas Morning News and The Providence Journal is expected to increase in the mid-single digits with a low-to-mid single digit increase at The Press-Enterprise."
The Company's total operating expenses are expected to increase approximately six percent in the fourth quarter versus the prior year, including about $7 million in incremental expense related to the implementation of circulation initiatives at The Dallas Morning News. Net earnings per share for the fourth quarter of 2005 are expected to be in a range of $0.33 to $0.35.
Full-Year 2006 Outlook
Williamson discussed Belo's prospects for 2006, noting, "We are optimistic about the potential for revenue growth that we see in all of our businesses next year. If revenues come through as we currently anticipate, we expect consolidated EBITDA and earnings from operations to grow at a high-single digit rate for full-year 2006, despite $12 million in incremental stock-based compensation that we will begin expensing in 2006 in accordance with the new accounting rules."
"Belo's Television Group should capture significant incremental revenue from the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and political advertising in 2006. For full-year 2006, Television Group spot revenue, including political revenue, is expected to increase in the mid-to-high single digits with total revenue up a like amount. Television Group expenses are expected to increase approximately three to four percent yielding a low-double digit increase in segment EBITDA and earnings from operations."
Regarding 2006 expectations for The Dallas Morning News, Williamson noted, "We currently expect full-year 2006 revenue at The Morning News to increase high-single to low-double digits with a mid-to-high single digit increase in advertising revenues. The Morning News' total revenue includes approximately $25 million in incremental circulation revenue related primarily to the change from a buy-sell arrangement with contractors to a fee-for-delivery distribution system. Full-year 2006 expenses at The Morning News are expected to increase high-single digits including approximately $21 million in circulation initiative expenses. Net of this item, expenses at The Dallas Morning News are projected to increase approximately four percent. The Morning News' contributions to Newspaper Group segment EBITDA and earnings from operations are expected to increase by a mid-teens percentage."
Revenues and expenses at The Dallas Morning News are expected to show significantly higher increases in the first half of 2006 than the second half of the year due to the timing of circulation initiatives, 2005 new product introductions and advertising and promotion spending. Total revenues, which are projected to be up high-single to low-double digits for the full-year, are expected to increase low-double digits in the first half of 2006 with a high-single digit increase in the second half of 2006. Similarly, Morning News expenses, which are expected to increase high-single digits for full-year 2006, are expected to increase by mid-teens in the first half of 2006 with a low-single digit increase in the second half of the year.
The Company currently expects revenue at The Providence Journal and The Press-Enterprise to continue to increase at industry-leading rates in 2006. The Providence Journal is expected to show a mid-to-high single digit increase in advertising revenues for full-year 2006 with a mid-single digit increase in total revenue. The Press-Enterprise is expected to increase both advertising and total revenue by a mid-to-high single digit rate.
For the Newspaper Group overall, total revenues are expected to increase in the high-single digits with a mid-to-high single digit increase in advertising revenue. Total Newspaper Group expenses are expected to increase high-single digits with a resulting high-single digit increase in segment EBITDA and earnings from operations.
Williamson noted, "For Belo as a whole, revenues are expected to increase in the high-single digits with a mid-to-high single digit increase in expenses. Consolidated EBITDA and earnings from operations are projected to increase in the high-single digits for full-year 2006."
Additional information on Belo and its outlook for 2005 and 2006 is available online at www.belo.com/invest, including the full text of the presentations and the archived webcasts.
Statements in this communication concerning Belo's business outlook or future economic performance, anticipated profitability, revenues, expenses, capital expenditures, investments, future financings or other financial and non-financial items 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 capital market conditions and prospects, and other factors such as changes in advertising demand, interest rates and newsprint prices; newspaper circulation matters, including changes in readership, and audits and related actions (including the censure of The Dallas Morning News) by the Audit Bureau of Circulations; technological changes, including the transition to digital television and the development of new systems to distribute television and other audio-visual content; development of Internet commerce; industry cycles; changes in pricing or other actions by competitors and suppliers; regulatory changes; adoption of new accounting standards or changes in existing accounting standards by the Financial Accounting Standards Board or other accounting standard-setting bodies or authorities; the effects of Company acquisitions and dispositions; the recovery of the New Orleans market from the effects of Hurricane Katrina; general economic conditions; and significant armed conflict, as well as other risks detailed in Belo's other public disclosures, and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") including the Annual Report on Form 10-K.