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The Washington Post Company’s (WPO - Analyst Report) fourth-quarter 2012 adjusted earnings from continuing operations came in at $10.61 per share, up approximately 19% from $8.91 earned in the prior-year quarter reflecting strength across Television Broadcasting and Cable Television divisions, offset by sluggish performance in the Education and Newspaper Publishing divisions.
Including one-time items and discontinued operations, the company posted quarterly loss of $6.57 compared with earnings of $8.03 per share in the year-ago quarter.
Revenue for the quarter came in at $1,050.1 million compared with $1,040.4 million in the prior-year quarter.
Education division’s revenue went down 6% to $544.4 million, reflecting a 15% fall in Higher Education revenue and a decline of 10% in Test Preparation revenue, partly offset by a 9% jump in Kaplan International revenue. The Education division saw operating loss of $111.9 million compared with an operating income of $30.9 million in the prior-year quarter.
Total student enrollment fell 12% year-over-year and 11% sequentially to 65,470. The company hinted that new student enrollment edged down 1% during the quarter at Kaplan University and Kaplan Higher Education Campuses.
Television Broadcasting revenue surged 32% to $116.2 million during the quarter, whereas operating income rose 54% to $62.8 million, attributable to healthy advertising demand. Moreover, political advertising also contributed $25.9 million to the revenue.
Cable Television division’s revenue rose 6% to $201.7 million. The division benefited from revenue growth registered across Internet and telephone service revenues and higher rates but was offset by fall in basic video subscribers’ base. The division’s operating income jumped 4% to $43.4 million attributable to higher revenue partially offset by rise in programming expenses and depreciation.
Basic video subscribers fell 4.5% to 593,615. On the other hand, high-speed data subscribers rose 1.8% to 459,235 and telephony subscribers grew 2.5% to 184,528.
Newspaper Publishing revenue came in at $162.1 million, down 6% from the year-ago quarter. Print advertising revenue at The Washington Post tumbled 12% to $67.5 million, reflecting a fall in general and retail advertising. Revenue from newspaper online publishing activities, principally washingtonpost.com and Slate, jumped 5% to $33.1 million, whereas display online advertising revenue climbed 7%. Online classified advertising revenue dipped 2%.
During 2012, Post daily and Sunday circulation fell 8.6% and 6.2%, respectively, from the year-ago period.
The Newspaper division’s operating income came in at $2.6 million compared with $6.8 million in the prior-year quarter.
The economy, which is still not completely out of the woods, has been impeding the growth of publishing companies, and The Washington Post Company is no exception. The company recently entered into a deal to sell its daily and Sunday newspaper, The Herald, based in Everett, Wash., La Raza, to Black Press Ltd. and its subsidiary Sound Publishing.
The New York Times Company (NYT - Analyst Report) is yet another example of publishing companies which are shedding assets. Last year in September, the company completed the sale of About Group, which it acquired in 2005, to InterActiveCorp (IACI - Snapshot Report).
Moreover, in May 2012, the company divested its remaining stake (210 Class B units) in the Fenway Sports Group. The company in Dec 2011 sold the Regional Media Group. Now, it intends to sell its New England Media Group, including The Boston Globe and its allied properties.
Washington Post’s Zacks Rank
Currently The Washington Post Company holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other stocks worth considering in the publishing industry are The E. W. Scripps Company (SSP - Snapshot Report), which holds a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (LEE - Snapshot Report), which carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
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