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Belo Revenues Decline 18 Percent

DALLAS: Belo’s bottom line for the third quarter was dragged down by a $242 million non-cash impairment charge on the company’s broadcast spectrum licenses. The pure-play TV station group reported a loss of $150.5 million on revenues of $140.6 million. Excluding the charge, pro forma net earnings came in at nearly $5 million, or 5 cents a share, compared to 14 cents for the same period a year ago. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell 29 percent to $35 million. Debt was reduced by $27 million during the quarter.

“The company’s third-quarter total revenue decline of 17.7 percent was an improvement over second quarter’s revenue decline of 23 percent, and is noteworthy given the significant political and Olympics revenue generated in the third quarter of 2008,” said Belo chief Dunia Shive. “Spot revenue, excluding political, declined 16 percent in the third quarter of 2009, an improvement from the 28 percent decline experienced in the second quarter of 2009.”

Total spot revenue, including political, was down 21.5 percent with 15 percent and 18 percent decreases in local and national spot, respectively. The decline was attributed to a “soft advertising environment, particularly in the automotive category which was down 36 percent” compared to last year, Belo’s earnings release stated.

Political revenue in 3Q09 was $2.1 million, down $9.6 million from a year ago. Olympics revenue totaled $9.7 million last year. Web site revenues were down 7.2 percent to $7.4 million compared to last year’s 3Q. Retransmission yielded $10.6 million, comprising 7.5 percent of total revenues.

The $242 million impairment charge on broadcast licenses was $155 million net of tax.

Total debt as of Sept. 30, 2009 was $1.042 billion, a reduction of $50 million from Dec. 31, 2008. Leverage and interest coverage ratios were 5.6x and 3x, respectively, at the end of the quarter. Belo invested $1.7 million in capex during 3Q09 compared to $3.6 million a year ago. Full-year capex is expected to come in less than $10 million for the year.

Shive said October finished flat with last year, and for the full fourth quarter, the percentage decline for core local and national spot is expected to improve from 3Q numbers. Factoring in $35.9 million in political revenues from last year will drive the decline down further, however.

Belo (NYSE: BLC) also announce the near-completion of an amendment to its bank credit facility, which will give it additional capacity and longer terms. Shares dropped 8 percent in today’s trading to $4.25.