Dallas, Texas -- Belo Corp. (NYSE: BLC), one of the nation's largest pure-play, publicly-traded television companies, announced fourth quarter and full year 2008 pro forma earnings per share from continuing operations of $0.28 and $0.78, respectively, compared to $0.32 and $0.88, respectively, for the fourth quarter and full year 2007. Pro forma earnings per share from continuing operations exclude non-cash impairment charges to goodwill and other intangible assets, spin-off related charges and a gain on the purchase and retirement of Company bonds in 2008.
Including the non-cash impairment charges to goodwill and other intangible assets, spin-off related charges and the gain on the purchase and retirement of Company bonds in 2008, the GAAP net loss per share from continuing operations for the fourth quarter and full year 2008 was ($3.50) and ($3.21), respectively, compared to net earnings per share from continuing operations of $0.06 and $0.59, respectively, for the fourth quarter and full year 2007.
2008 in Review
Commenting on the Company's operating performance in 2008, Dunia A. Shive, Belo Corp.'s president and Chief Executive Officer, said, "Total revenue declined 5.6 percent as strong political revenues and double-digit increases in retransmission and Internet revenues were not enough to offset the overall soft advertising conditions Belo experienced during the year. The Company responded with a number of expense reduction initiatives in 2008 including the freezing of open positions Company-wide, staff reductions in certain markets and other cost-saving measures. These expense initiatives led to a 4.1 percent reduction in combined station and corporate operating costs in 2008. Excluding spin-off related charges and a gain on the purchase and retirement of Company bonds, the Company generated $255 million in pro forma consolidated EBITDA in 2008 with a pro forma consolidated EBITDA margin of 35 percent, only slightly below the 2007 pro forma consolidated EBITDA margin of 36 percent. The station EBITDA margin for the fourth quarter of 2008 was 41.2 percent, and 38.7 percent for full year 2008. In addition, the Company reduced its debt $45 million in the fourth quarter of 2008 and $75 million for the year."
Fourth quarter and full year results for 2008 and 2007 include non-cash impairment charges of $465 million and $22 million, respectively. These charges were determined through Belo's annual impairment testing of goodwill and other intangible assets using the methodology prescribed by Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 142. "It is important to point out, however, that these impairments are non-cash charges to earnings and will not affect Belo's liquidity, cash flows from operating activities or debt covenants, or have an impact on the Company's future operations," Shive said.
For 2008, $351 million of the impairment charge related to goodwill and $114 million related to FCC licenses. In 2007, all of the impairment charge related to goodwill. The $465 million impairment charge in 2008 represents a 23 percent reduction in the Company's total intangible assets.
Spin-off related charges, which include transaction and financing costs and a one-time tax charge associated with the spin-off of the Company's newspaper businesses and related assets on February 8, 2008, totaled $0.22 per share and $0.08 per share, respectively, for the full year 2008 and 2007. The fourth quarters of 2008 and 2007 include spin-off related charges totaling $0.01 and $0.05 per share, respectively.
In the fourth quarter of 2008, the Company purchased at a discount and retired $43.6 million of bonds maturing in 2013 and 2027 at a cost of $27.2 million. As a result, fourth quarter and full year 2008 results include a gain, net of taxes, of $10 million, or $0.10 per share, associated with these bond transactions.
Total revenues decreased 8.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 versus the fourth quarter of 2007 as declines in Belo's core local and national spot business were greater than incremental gains from political revenues. Fourth quarter total spot revenue, including political, was down 11 percent with 26 percent decreases in both local and national spot. Total revenues decreased 5.6 percent for the full year 2008. Full year 2008 spot revenue, including political, was down 7.9 percent with 13 percent and 17 percent decreases in local and national spot, respectively.
The spot revenue declines in the fourth quarter and full year 2008 were primarily due to a weak advertising environment, particularly in the automotive category which was down 37 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Fourth quarter and full year 2008 included political revenues of $35.9 million and $56.2 million, respectively.
Advertising revenue associated with Belo's Web sites increased 5.1 percent in the fourth quarter and 14 percent for the full year 2008. Internet revenues surpassed $30 million for the year and represent over 4 percent of the Company's total revenue. Retransmission revenues increased 30 percent in the fourth quarter and 41 percent for full year 2008. Retransmission revenues for 2008 totaled $33.1 million and represent 4.5 percent of Belo's total revenue.
Station expenses decreased 4.2 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively, for fourth quarter and full year 2008.
Corporate operating costs were $10.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, as compared to $11.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, a decrease of 7.8 percent. For full year 2008, corporate operating costs totaled $32.2 million versus $40.5 million in 2007, a decrease of 20 percent. The decreases for both fourth quarter and full year were due to lower share-based compensation, lower bonus expense and other cost-saving measures.
Combined station and corporate operating costs declined 4.5 percent and 4.1 percent for the fourth quarter and full year 2008, respectively.
Excluding impairment charges and spin-off related costs, the Company's earnings from operations decreased 17 percent and 9 percent, respectively, for the fourth quarter and full year 2008.
Belo's depreciation and amortization expense totaled $10.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, 2.8 percent lower than the fourth quarter of 2007. Full year 2008 depreciation and amortization expense totaled $42.9 million, a decrease of 5.2 percent when compared to 2007.
The Company's interest expense totaled $17.7 million in fourth quarter 2008, a decrease of 21 percent from fourth quarter 2007. Full year 2008 interest expense totaled $83.1 million, a 12 percent decrease from full year 2007.
Other income, net, increased $18.6 million in the fourth quarter and $13.6 million for the full year 2008 due primarily to a $16.4 million gain on the retirement of $43.6 million of bonds due in 2013 and 2027 that were purchased at a cost of $27.2 million. The bond transactions were funded through the Company's revolving credit facility.
Income tax expense decreased $61.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared to the fourth quarter of 2007 due primarily to a $68.4 million tax benefit associated with the impairment charge. Full year 2008 tax expense decreased $44.6 million due primarily to the $68.4 million tax benefit associated with the impairment charge, partially offset by a one-time $18.8 million tax charge related to the transfer of certain intangible assets in connection with the spin-off and the incremental tax related to the gain on the Company's purchase of its bonds at a discount.
Total debt at December 31, 2008 was $1.093 billion. The Company's leverage ratio, as defined in the Company's credit facility, was 4.4 times at December 31, 2008. The Company did not repurchase shares of common stock in the last nine months of the year, but did repurchase 191,000 shares in the first quarter of 2008 for a total of $2.2 million. Belo invested $5.8 million in capital expenditures in the fourth quarter and $25.4 million for the full year.
On February 8, 2008, Belo completed the spin-off of its newspaper businesses and related assets into a separate publicly-traded company, A. H. Belo Corporation (NYSE: AHC). The results of operations of the Newspaper Group and related corporate expenses are classified as discontinued operations for all periods prior to the spin-off.
Non-GAAP Financial Measures
A reconciliation of pro forma consolidated EBITDA and pro forma earnings from operations to earnings from operations, and a reconciliation of net earnings from continuing operations to pro forma net earnings from continuing operations are set forth in an exhibit to this release.
In looking to 2009, Shive said, "Given the continued weak economic environment, it is extremely difficult to project where advertising revenues will finish for the first quarter. Currently, first quarter local and national spot pacing trends are similar to our experience in the fourth quarter of 2008.
"For full year 2009, we expect retransmission and Internet revenues to continue to grow double digits. Combined station and corporate operating expenses are projected to be lower in 2009. Capital expenditures for 2009 are projected to not exceed $12 million, which is down from $25.4 million in 2008. We expect the Company's tax rate to be approximately 39 percent in 2009.
"The Company will continue to stay focused on debt paydown and will continue to seek to reduce its long-term debt through opportunistic purchases and retirements of bonds. Like many companies, the weak revenue environment is expected to result in an increase in our leverage ratio. While we're in compliance with all terms of our current bank facility which expires in June 2011, we are seeking an amendment to the facility to adjust the leverage covenant amid the current economic slowdown. We expect to have an amended facility in place by the end of the first quarter."
A conference call to discuss this release and other matters of interest to shareholders and analysts will follow at 1:00 p.m. CST this afternoon. The conference call will be simultaneously Webcast on Belo Corp.'s Web site (www.belo.com/invest). Following the conclusion of the Webcast, a replay of the conference call will be archived on Belo's Web site. To access the listen-only conference lines, dial 1-800-288-8960. A replay line will be open from 3:00 p.m. CST on February 5 until 11:59 p.m. CST February 12. To access the replay, dial 800-475-6701 or 320-365-3844. The access code for the replay is 980652.
About Belo Corp.
Belo Corp. (BLC) is one of the nation's largest pure-play, publicly-traded television companies, with 2008 annual revenue of $733 million. The Company owns and operates 20 television stations (nine in the top 25 markets) and their associated Web sites. Belo stations, which include affiliations with ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW and MyNetwork TV, reach more than 14 percent of U.S. television households in 15 highly-attractive markets. Nearly all Belo stations rank first or second in their local market. Additional information is available at www.belo.com or by contacting Paul Fry, vice president/Investor Relations & Corporate Communications, at 214-977-6835.
Statements in this communication concerning Belo's business outlook or future economic performance, anticipated profitability, revenues, expenses, dividends, capital expenditures, investments, future financings, and 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, uncertainties regarding the costs, consequences (including tax consequences) and other effects of the distribution of the newspaper businesses and related assets of Belo; changes in capital market conditions and prospects, and other factors such as changes in advertising demand, interest rates and programming and production costs; changes in viewership patterns and demography, and actions by Nielsen; changes in the network-affiliate business model for broadcast television; technological changes, including the transition to digital television and the development of new systems to distribute television and other audio-visual content; changes in the ability to secure, and in the terms of, carriage of Belo programming on cable, satellite, telecommunications and other program distribution methods; development of Internet commerce; industry cycles; changes in pricing or other actions by competitors and suppliers; Federal Communications Commission and other regulatory, tax and legal 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, dispositions and co-owned ventures; general economic conditions; and significant armed conflict, as well as other risks detailed in Belo's other public disclosures and filings with the SEC including Belo's Annual Report on Form 10-K.