Belo Finishes 4Q in the Black

February 4, 2010
DALLAS : Belo’s 20 TV stations posted a fourth-quarter profit of $22.3 million, signaling enough of a recovery that executives intend to lift a wage freeze during the first half of this year. 4Q09 earnings per share were 21 cents, beating out analyst expectations of 17 cents. Revenues for the quarter were $171.3 million, down nearly 14 percent on the contraction of political ad revenue. Political revenues were $8.8 million in 4Q09 versus nearly $36 million in 4Q08.

“The company’s spot revenue, excluding political, in the fourth quarter of 2009 was down less than 1 percent when compared with the fourth quarter of 2008, a marked improvement from 2009’s third-quarter decline of 16 percent, said Belo President and CEO Dunia A. Shive.

For the full year of 2009, total revenues declined 19.5 percent to $590.3 million compared to $733.5 million in 2008, when political advertising contributed a record total of $56.2 million. 4Q09 political was $13.4 million.

Full-year net loss was $109 million, fueled by a 2Q write-down of $242 million on spectrum licenses. Net loss for full-year 2008 was $459.2 million on a $662.2 million impairment. The 4Q08 loss was $484.6 million.

Automotive was 39 percent for the full year; 36 percent in 3Q09 and just 9 percent for 4Q09, indicating improvement in the segment. Web site revenue fell 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter and 5.2 percent for the full year. Retransmission revenue totaled $42.6 million in 2009, a 29 percent increase from 2008. Retransmission represented 7 percent of Belo’s total revenue.

Total debt at Dec. 31, 2009 was $1.028 billion. Leverage at that time was 5.9x. Belo invested $4.7 million in capital expenditures in the fourth quarter of 2009 and $9.2 million for the full year.

Looking to 2010, Shive said January spot was up 9 percent from last year, with a greater increase expected this month because of sporting events. Belo has five CBS affiliates that will gain from the Super Bowl and four NBC affiliates that will carry the Olympics.

“First-quarter spot revenues are currently pacing up in the low double-digits, with the automotive category currently pacing up more than 40 percent,” she said. “We expect robust political spending in 2010, most of which will come in the second half of the year.

“Our approach to expenses in 2010 will remain cautious and will be tied to the strength and stabilization of the revenue environment. We plan to lift the wage freeze for our employees at some point during the first half of the year. Capital expenditures for 2010 are not expected to exceed $15 million.” -- Deborah D. McAdams

More on Belo:

December 9, 2009: Belo Expects 4Q to Beat Street

November 16, 2009: Belo Completes $275 Million Offering

November 12, 2009: “Belo Offers $275 Million at 8 Percent

November 3, 2009: Belo Revenues Decline 18 Percent

August 3, 2009: Belo Reports 2Q in Line with Industry

April 30, 2009: “Belo Reports Net Income on Bond Retirement
March 20, 2009: “Belo Declares 2Q Dividend, Suspends the Rest

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