Belo Reports 4Q and 2008 Loss

Retransmission, political and Internet revenues weren’t enough to save Belo’s 20 TV stations from the caving ad market.

The pure-play TV group in Dallas, reported a net loss of nearly $386 million on revenues of nearly $199 million for the quarter ending Dec. 31. Both were down from the same period one year earlier, when Belo (NYSE: BLC) posted a loss of $333 million on revenues of nearly $218 million.

For the full year, Belo revenues were nearly $733.5 million, down from nearly $777 million in 2007. Full year net loss was $333 million compared to almost $263 million the year before.

“Total revenue declined 5.6 percent as strong political revenues and double-digit increases in retransmission and Internet revenues were not enough to offset the overall soft advertising conditions Belo experienced during the year,” said Belo chief Dunia Shive. “The company responded with a number of expense reduction initiatives in 2008, including the freezing of open positions companywide, staff reductions in certain markets and other cost-saving measures. These expense initiatives led to a 4.1 percent reduction in combined station and corporate operating costs in 2008.”

Belo wrote down $465 million over 2008--$351 million for intangibles and $114 million on the value of its FCC licenses. The total represents a 23 percent reduction in Belo’s intangibles.

Belo’s total debt was more than $1 billion and its leverage ratio 4.4x as of Dec. 31. Total assets were pegged at more than $2 billion. Leverage is expected to increase in ’09 as Belo works to amend its credit facility expiring in June 2011, Shive said.

Ad revenue for Belo’s 20 stations is expected to continue pacing downward into 2009, even as retrans and Internet revenues are expected to grow by double digits over the full year. Capex is projected at no more than $12 million, compared to $25.4 million in 2008.