The New York Times Company (NYT - Analyst Report) posted second-quarter 2013 earnings of 14 cents a share that beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a couple of cents, and surged 27.3% from 11 cents delivered in the year-ago quarter.
Including one-time items and discontinued operations, quarterly earnings came in at 13 cents, substantially up from a loss of 58 cents a share posted in the prior-year period.
The quarter reflects favorable response to the digital subscription packages, increase in circulation revenue and effective cost management. But, these failed to offset the diminishing advertising revenue, which portrayed a sequential improvement.
The current economic situation does not seem promising for publishing companies, which are bearing the brunt of waning advertising demand, and this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock is no exception. Consequently, the company is contemplating on introducing a new line of digital products and services, and targeting global customers to counter the headwinds.
Publishing companies have been divesting assets that have no direct relation to the core operations. The New York Times Company on Sep 24, 2012 completed the sale of About Group, which it acquired in 2005, to InterActiveCorp for a consideration of $300 million. In October, the company sold its stake in Indeed.com, a job portal, for approximately $167 million.
Another example of asset divestiture by the company is the sale of Regional Media Group in Dec 2011, which was once a part of News Media Group. The company now intends to sell its New England Media Group, including The Boston Globe and its allied properties. Another diversified media conglomerate, The Washington Post Company completed the sale of its daily and Sunday newspaper, The Herald, to Black Press Ltd. and its subsidiary Sound Publishing.
The New York Times Company now reports through one reportable segment, News Media Group, which includes The New York Times Media Group and New England Media Group. The company’s top line decreased marginally by 0.9% to $485.4 million, and came below the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $489 million attributable to a fall in advertising revenue. The New York Times Media Group revenue inched up 0.8% to $391 million and New England Media Group revenue fell sharply by 7.4% to $94.4 million.
The ongoing slouch in the advertising market continues to weigh upon The New York Times Company, the publisher of The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe and 15 other daily newspapers. Total advertising revenue slid 5.8% to $207.5 million in the second quarter, following a decline of 11.2% in the first quarter of 2013.
The New York Times Company’s print advertising declined 6.8% during the quarter. Digital advertising revenue for New York Times’ Digital business, which includes NYTimes.com, Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com, fell 2.7% to $51.2 million, and now accounts for 24.7% of total advertising revenue, up from 23.9% in the prior-year quarter.
The company experienced a fall in all major advertising categories. Both national and retail advertising dipped 3.5% and 12.9%, respectively, during the quarter. Total classified advertising dropped 8.6%. Within classified, real estate and help-wanted advertising fell 13.9% and 11%, respectively. Automotive advertising tumbled 4.4%.
The diversified media conglomerate hinted that total advertising revenue trends in the third quarter of 2013 would witness same volatility as in the first-half of 2013.
On the brighter side, the rise in circulation revenue came as a respite. It climbed 5.1% to $245.1 million. Management now expects total circulation revenue to jump in the low to mid-single digits in the third quarter of 2013, gaining from digital subscription initiatives and increase in print circulation price at The New York Times.
Total adjusted operating profit rose 13% to $77.8 million, whereas adjusted operating margin expanded 190 basis points to 16%. The growth reflected sturdy circulation revenue and effective cost management.
Other Financial Aspects
The company ended the quarter with cash and marketable securities of about $918 million, and total debt and capital lease obligations of approximately $694 million.
The company bought back 6.625% senior notes of approximately $5 million due to mature in 2016. The New York Times Company incurred capital expenditures of approximately $1.8 million during the quarter. Management now anticipates capital expenditures of approximately $35 million in 2013.
The company’s advertising volume came under pressure as advertisers shied away from making any upfront commitments in an economy which is showing an uneven recovery. The publishing industry has long been grappling with sinking advertising revenue. This comes in the wake of a longer-term secular decline as more readers choose free online news, thereby making the print-advertising model increasingly irrelevant.
To curb shrinking advertising revenue and seek new revenue avenues, the publishing companies contemplated charging readers for online content.
Despite hiccups in the economy, what still promises a guaranteed revenue generation avenue is The New York Times Company’s pricing system for NYTimes.com, which was launched on Mar 28, 2011. The company notified that the number of paid digital subscribers for The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune reached 699,000 at the end of the quarter, reflecting a jump of about 35% year-over-year.
The company also launched a pay and read model for BostonGlobe.com. The number of paid digital subscribers reached 39,000 at the end of the quarter, representing an increase of 70% year-over-year.
The increase in the subscriber base was due to the company’s decision to limit the number of free articles that can be read by online traffic visiting the website of its flagship newspaper. Online visitors cannot access more than 10 free articles per month, which is exactly half of what the pay-and-read model offered when the system was launched.
Another media conglomerate, News Corporation (NWSA - Analyst Report) has also moved toward an online subscription-based model for general news content. News International, a subsidiary of News Corporation, began charging readers for online content for The Times of London and Sunday Times of London effective Jun 2010.
The New York Times Company remains committed to streamline its cost structure, strengthen its balance sheet, and rebalance its portfolio. However, we remain apprehensive about risks that the company faces due to its high dependence on advertising revenue. The company intends to transform itself and lessen its reliance on traditional advertising.
In doing so, the company wishes to launch lower-priced as well as premium subscription based model to target different masses according to their appetite, and emphasize on online video production and brand extension. The company will also christen International Herald Tribune as the International New York Times to represent itself as a single brand identity in order to attract international digital subscribers.