Media General Reports Loss on $84 Million Impairment

RICHMOND, VA: Media General’s 18 TV stations generated $63.4 million in the third quarter, down around 20 percent from $79.4 million a year ago and just down a tick from $64.7 million in the second quarter.

Retransmission revenues reached $4.2 million, compared to $1 million last year.

Media General doesn’t provide profit-loss figures for the broadcast segment any longer, having reorganized its structure into geographic regions instead of operational divisions. Consolidated revenues from the print, broadcast and online properties were $158 million compared to nearly $193 million a year ago.

Media General (NYSE: MEG) posted a net loss for 3Q09 of $62.5 million, or $2.80 per share, on a pretax non-cash impairment charge of $84 million, compared to a profit of $6.1 million, or 27 cents a share a year ago. Excluding impairment and factoring in a 39 percent tax rate, income was $4.4 million or 20 cents a share.

MEG chief Marshall Morton said the revenue slide was slowing.

“The 18 percent decline in total revenues in the third quarter represents a sequential improvement from the 20 percent decrease in the second quarter of 2009,” he said. “The improvement is made more notable when we consider that last year’s third quarter included $12.5 million in Olympics revenues as well as $6 million more in political revenues. Nonetheless, the advertising environment in the third quarter remained challenging, and we experienced lower classified, local and national revenues overall.”

Media General had 770 fewer full-time employees this year than last year, and by year’s end, imposed furloughs will total 15 days per employee.

“As we enter the fourth quarter, we are seeing signs of strengthening in advertiser spending,” Morton said. “While we do not expect to fully replace the $23.4 million of political revenues we generated in last year’s fourth quarter, we believe that local and national advertiser spending patterns are firming somewhat, especially on the broadcast side. September produced the smallest revenue decline we’ve seen all year, down 12 percent.”

MEG’s 3Q09 results included a $1.9 million gain on an insurance payout, $910,000 from a favorable tax ruling and $2 million from imposing a retirement plan freeze. These gains were partially offset by a $2.2 million expense from stock-based compensation plans. The 2008 third quarter included a $500,000 insurance payment and a $1 million reduction associated with newsprint.

MEG finished the quarter with $6.7 million in cash and equivalents, and $705.7 million in long-term debt. Shares dipped this morning to $9.84 from yesterday’s $11, then rebounded to $11.53 by mid-day.
-- Deborah D. McAdams

More on MEG:
September 17, 2009: “Media General Adds Furlough Days”
The company first instated furloughs in February, requiring employees to take 10 unpaid days off.

July 22, 2009
:Media General TV Revenues Drop 21 Percent
Second-quarter TV station revenues fell for Media General’s 18 stations, even as time sales picked up in May and June. Media General’s (NYSE: MEG) broadcast segment generated $64.7 million, down 21 percent from a year ago, reflecting a dip in both national and local time sales.

July 2, 2009: “Gabelli Increases Stake in Media General”
Investor Mario Gabelli upped his stake of Media General. Gabelli’s Gamco Investors of Rye, N.Y., now holds nearly 30 percent of Media General’s A shares.

April 17, 2009: “Media General TV Station Profit Plunges”
Media General’s 19 TV stations generated around $3.3 million in profit in 1Q09, down 57 percent from same period a year ago.

March 13, 2009
: “Media General to Shutter 30-year-old Washington Bureau”
“We very much regret having to take this step,” said Graham Woodlief, president of the publishing division.

January 29, 2009: “Media General TV Stations Post Profit”
Media General’s 19 TV stations generated revenues of $87.5 million for the quarter ending last Dec. 28.