Knight Ridder 4Q earnings fall

Tuesday, January 31st 2006, 8:42 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Newspaper publisher Knight Ridder Inc., which is seeking a buyer under pressure from its largest shareholders, reported a 22 percent decline in fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday from the same period a year ago, which included earnings from two newspapers the company no longer owns.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company earned $83.3 million, or $1.24 a share, in the three months ended Dec. 25, down from $107.2 million, or $1.38 a share, in the same period a year earlier.

The latest results came in two cents a share ahead of the expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. The year-ago figures include 13 cents per share in earnings from newspapers in Tallahassee, Fla., and Detroit that Knight Ridder doesn't own any more.

Last August, Knight Ridder sold the Detroit Free Press to Gannett Co. and swapped the Tallahassee Democrat plus cash for Gannett newspapers in Idaho and Washington state.

Revenues rose 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter to $819.9 million from $795.5 million a year ago. Advertising revenues rose 3 percent to $659.1 million. The latest figures include results from the newly acquired newspapers.

Had Knight Ridder owned the same set of newspapers in both periods, total revenues would have slipped 0.2 percent, and advertising revenues also would have fallen 0.2 percent.

The earnings report was the first since Knight Ridder began actively considering a possible sale of the company.

For the full year, Knight Ridder's net earnings jumped to $471.4 million or $6.52 per share, versus $326.2 million or $4.13 per share. The 2005 figures include a gain of $207.9 million in the sale of the newspapers in Detroit and Tallahassee. Full-year income from continuing operations was $3.53 per share in 2005 versus $3.78 per share in 2004.

Full-year revenues rose 2.1 percent to $3 billion from $2.94 billion in the prior year. Had the company owned the same newspapers in both periods, total revenues would have been up 1.1 percent while advertising revenues rose 1.7 percent on the same basis.