Media General Inc.'s earnings fell 13
percent in the final three months of 2000 even though the company's
net income grew in its core publishing and broadcast divisions.
The Richmond-based media conglomerate reported fourth-quarter
earnings Tuesday of $20.8 million, or 91 cents per share, on its
continuing operations. That excludes a gain of $482,000, or two
cents a share, from discontinued operations.
The earnings fell below the 95 cents per share estimate by
analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial. They were also
lower than the fourth-quarter earnings in 1999 of $28.0 million, or
$1.05 per share, from continuing operations.
Higher interest payments accounted for the smaller profit.
Interest expenses increased from $2.4 million in the fourth quarter
of 1999 to $16.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2000.
Media General's quarterly revenues increased significantly in
2000, especially in its broadcast division. That's largely related
to several acquisitions the company made in 2000.
The publishing division, which includes the Richmond
Times-Dispatch and The Tampa Tribune, increased quarterly revenue
to $163 million from $138 million.
The broadcast division, which acquired 12 new stations in 2000
with the $605 million purchase of Spartan Communications, increased
quarterly revenue to $82 million from $48 million.
Even excluding the acquisitions, broadcast revenue increased 10
percent, largely due to heavy political advertising at its three
Florida television stations.
The two divisions combined turned a quarterly profit of $70
million, a 25 percent increase over the $56 million earned by the
two divisions in 1999.
For the year, Media General earned $64 million, or $2.66 per
share, on continuing operations on revenue of $831 million.
In 1999, the company earned $79 million, or $2.97 per share, on
continuing operations on revenue of $693 million.
For 2001, the company warned of a weaker advertising market that
could hurt revenues, particularly in the first quarter.
"We look for the market to strengthen in the second half of the
year," said Media General Chairman J. Stewart Bryan III.