March 14, 2006
Belo Updates Outlook for First Quarter 2006, Provides Revenue and Statistical Data for February
Dallas -- Belo Corp. (NYSE: BLC) provided today an update regarding first quarter financial projections including an estimate for earnings per share, as the Company noted it would in its year-end earnings release, and issued its statistical report for the month of February.
First Quarter 2006 Outlook
Robert W. Decherd, Belo's chairman, president, and chief executive officer, said, "Belo's revenue growth in the first quarter will be strong with gains across all operating segments. Television Group advertising revenue growth has accelerated as the quarter has progressed while the advertising market has been more challenging for Belo's newspapers than originally anticipated. On the expense side, the first quarter will be the most difficult quarter of 2006 because it is affected by the recording of expenses related to the change in circulation distribution methods at The Dallas Morning News, the timing of various expenses versus last year, and expenses related to new products launched in the second half of 2005."
Belo's Television Group spot revenues increased 3.7 percent in January versus the prior year, 18 percent in February, and are currently expected to increase in the low-single digits in March. For the first quarter overall, Belo's Television Group spot revenues should increase in the high-single digits. Excluding WWL-TV, Belo's CBS affiliate in New Orleans, first quarter spot revenues are expected to increase low-double digits. In addition, revenues associated with the Television Group's Web sites are expected to increase from $2.3 million in the first quarter of 2005 to more than $3.5 million in the first quarter of 2006.
Belo's Newspaper Group advertising revenues increased 5.2 percent in January versus last year and decreased slightly in February. Newspaper Group ad revenues are currently expected to increase in the low-single digits in March. For the first quarter overall, the Company expects its Newspaper Group advertising revenues to be up low-single digits with a low-single digit increase at The Dallas Morning News and The Press-Enterprise and a low-to-mid single digit increase at The Providence Journal. Advertising revenues associated with the Newspaper Group's Web sites, which are included in the newspaper revenue guidance, are expected to be more than $10 million in the first quarter of 2006, an increase from $7 million in the first quarter of 2005.
As noted on the year-end earnings conference call in early February and at the December Media Week conferences, Belo's first quarter results will include approximately $8.5 million in incremental circulation revenue and $7 million in incremental circulation expenses associated with the change in distribution methods at The Dallas Morning News . The first quarter will also include almost $3 million in incremental stock-based compensation that the Company began expensing in January 2006 in accordance with the new accounting rules. Company-wide advertising and promotion spending that began in the third quarter of 2005 will be spent more evenly throughout the year in 2006, increasing this expense in the first quarter relative to 2005. New products at The Dallas Morning News launched in the third quarter of 2005 will result in higher expenses in the first quarter of 2006 relative to 2005, including personnel costs and consumption of newsprint, ink and supplies. Excluding increases in these areas, consolidated operating costs and expenses are expected to increase low-to-mid single digits, even with significantly higher energy and medical insurance costs. On a reported basis, operating costs and expenses are expected to increase in the low-double digits for the first quarter. Full-year 2006 expenses should increase mid-to-high single digits on a reported basis and mid-single digits excluding the incremental circulation expenses.
Based on this guidance, the Company currently estimates first quarter earnings per share to be in the range of $0.13 to $0.15. Decherd noted, "This range is consistent with the general guidance we've given about the first quarter of 2006 beginning at the December Media conferences, and sets the stage for full-year performance that is in line with our internal expectations for 2006."
February Statistical Report
Consolidated revenue for February 2006 increased 9.4 percent versus February 2005 with an 18 percent increase in the Television Group complemented by a two percent increase in the Newspaper Group.
Television Group spot revenues increased 18 percent in February versus last year, with an 18 percent increase in local spot, a 14 percent increase in national spot, and $800,000 in political revenue. February included $9 million in revenue related to the Winter Olympics and more than $2 million in Super Bowl-related revenue. Newspaper Group advertising revenue decreased 0.5 percent in February versus the prior year.
At The Dallas Morning News, total revenue increased 4.1 percent in February versus last year, including an estimated $3 million in incremental circulation revenue associated with the implementation of the Circulation Review Team's recommended changes, primarily the move from a buy-sell arrangement to a fee-for-delivery distribution system. Advertising revenues, which were not affected by the increase in circulation revenue, decreased 1.3 percent in February 2006 versus February 2005. Decreases in classified, retail and general revenues were partially offset by increases in preprints and part-run ROP revenue. Classified revenue at The Dallas Morning News was down six percent in February with a four percent decrease in classified employment, a 1.5 percent decrease in classified real estate and a 15 percent decrease in classified automotive. Retail full-run ROP revenue decreased 7.8 percent with an increase in the entertainment category and decreases in the furniture and computers categories. General full-run ROP revenue was down 9.4 percent in February versus last year, with strength in the financial category and weakness in the telecom and automotive categories.
At The Providence Journal, advertising revenue increased 1.4 percent in February 2006 versus February 2005 with total revenue down slightly. Classified revenue increased in February versus the prior year, while retail and general decreased.
At The Press-Enterprise, advertising revenues increased 0.3 percent in February 2006 versus February 2005 with total revenue down two percent. Classified revenues increased 8.5 percent in February led by real estate, which was up 12 percent versus the prior year.
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 7,700 employees and $1.5 billion in annual revenues, Belo operates in some of America's most dynamic markets in Texas, the Northwest, the Southwest, Rhode Island, and the Mid-Atlantic. Belo owns 19 television stations, six of which are in the 15 largest U.S. broadcast markets. The Company also 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). The Company also publishes specialty publications targeting young adults and the fast-growing Hispanic market, including Quick and Al Dia in Dallas/Fort Worth, and El D and La Prensa in Riverside. Belo operates more than 30 Web sites associated with its operating companies. Additional information is available at www.belo.com or by contacting 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, 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.