Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times, KTLA-TV and other media properties,… (M. Spencer Green / AP )
Earnings at Tribune Co., parent of the Los Angeles Times, fell sharply in the first quarter as advertising revenue continued to slide and the company incurred a big tax bill.
The company reported net income of $58.4 million in the three months, a 41% plunge from the $99.1 million in the year-earlier period. Revenue slid 3.3% to $705 million and pretax income declined 7.8% to $80.2 million.
The company’s bottom line was reduced by its payment of $21.8 million in income taxes in the quarter. By contrast, the year-earlier income was boosted by a net tax benefit of $12.2 million.
Tribune reduced operating expenses by $49.4 million to $621.5 million, a 7.4% decline compared with a year earlier.
But advertising revenue in the company’s core publishing unit continued to skid, a reflection of the ongoing erosion of the newspaper business.
The newspaper unit’s ad revenue sagged 9% to $254 million. Retail advertising, which includes department stores and home-improvement stores, dipped 7% to $129 million. Classified ads fell 7% to $69 million.
National ads, including those from cellular carriers, movie companies and financial services providers, plunged 13% to $56 million. Digital advertising declined 2%.
Besides The Times, Tribune owns the Chicago Tribune and six other newspapers. It also owns radio and television stations and other media properties.
Results were also weaker in the company’s broadcast division. Operating profit slid 26% in the first quarter to $47 million. The unit’s revenue was off 4%.
Tribune released the earnings results on its website at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time Friday. Companies trying to deflect attention from bad news often release earnings late on a Friday.
Tribune was required to release its financial performance under the terms of its emergence from bankruptcy protection last year.
The results come as the company is contemplating a sale of its publishing unit to focus on its more promising television operations. Tribune hired investment bankers in February to analyze a possible sale. But the process has moved slowly.
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