Tribune Publishing Company Misses Earnings Estimates, Tops Revenue Expectations

“We are in the early stages of digital,” interim CFO Sandy Martin tells TheWrap as company delivers $0.60 per share on $457 million in revenue

Tribune Publishing Company

Tribune Publishing Company (TPUB) unveiled its fourth quarter 2014 financials on Wednesday morning before the stock markets opened, reporting earnings of $0.60 per share (EPS) on $457 million in revenue.

The performance fell below Wall Street’s projections on earnings but exceeded revenue expectations. According to Yahoo Finance, the consensus estimate predicted Q4 earnings would be around $0.83 per share on revenue of 446.38M. TheStreet forecasted the same EPS.

Revenue fell 5.5 percent compared to 2013’s fourth quarter; $457 million down from $484 million. Advertising revenue fell 10.4 percent versus 2013’s fourth quarter; 266 million compared to $296 million. Digital classified advertising was up slightly at 2 percent; the company ended 2014 with 3.2 million digital registered users, 659,000 paid digital users and 61,000 digital-only subscribers, with digital revenue representing 11 percent of total revenue for the company.

Interim CFO Sandy Martin told TheWrap: “We have invested $15 million dollars over the last 18 moths on digital platforms and next-generation user experience. Not only is it a great B to B tool with advertisers…it’s also that business to consumer availability as an app, which you can get anywhere, anytime. So if you read the print newspaper in the morning, and read your iPad on the way in, it provides that premium content anywhere anytime.”

Martin projects digital as the driving force in 2015: “We feel like we are in the early stages of digital, but have made all the investments and have launched and invested about $5 million dollars in the fourth quarter to get that circulation digital kicked off with consumers.”

Revenues from Commercial print and delivery were down 19.2 percent; $38 million compared to $47 million—the company cited a change in one major contract as the contributing factor; losing the Orange County Register.  Net income for the fourth quarter was $15 million compared to $33 million in 2013.

For the full year, the company made a profit of $42.3 million, or $1.66 per share. Revenue came in at 1.7 million. In August, Tribune rebranded itself as Tribune Media Company, officially spinning off its publishing unit, which includes the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun.

CEO Jack Griffin cited the company’s strong digital performance as the reason behind its performance.

“In the fourth quarter, Tribune Publishing launched our next-generation digital experience and responsive mobile apps across the Company; we significantly grew our digital-only subscribers and paid digital users, and we undertook a comprehensive zero-based budgeting process that is expected to produce 2015 in-year expense savings of $65 million to $70 million. We ended 2014 with 3.2 million digital registered users, 659,000 paid digital users and 61,000 digital-only subscribers. In addition, total full-year digital revenues from all sources equal approximately $200 million (excluding the favorable impact of affiliate agreements prior to the corporate transaction modifications), representing more than 11% of total revenue. With significant investments behind us, we expect to see growth in digital revenues in 2015.”

The company will kick off its earnings call at 11 a.m. ET.