USA Today publisher Gannett posts loss as print ads sink

USA Today publisher Gannett, suffering from the ongoing print-ad declines that have hurt the broader newspaper industry, is cutting jobs as it reported a loss in its latest quarter.

The company said it is cutting 2 percent of its staff. Gannett had nearly 19,000 employees at the end of 2015, suggesting more than 300 jobs were lost. Gannett spokeswoman Amber Allman did not reply to a question asking how many employees are losing their jobs.

CEO Robert Dickey said on a call with analysts Thursday that layoffs "touched across all areas" of the company and will mean $10 million a year in savings. He said that the company is trying not to cut reporters to keep up the quality of its journalism.

Aside from USA Today, Gannett owns papers like The Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Detroit Free Press and The Tennessean. It's the country's biggest newspaper company by paid circulation, according to Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, a firm that helps newspapers with merger transactions, and has been buying up more newspapers as a defense against shrinking ad dollars. It has pursued Tronc, the company formerly known as Tribune Publishing, for months. Tronc has rejected public offers from Gannett, but is reportedly considering a higher bid.

The company did not comment on that deal Thursday. Dickey said more broadly that Gannett wants to add more local-news properties, but it has to make sure acquisitions make sense for shareholders.

In the quarter, other acquisitions in 2016 boosted overall revenue. But the company said that excluding deals and the impact of changing currency values, ad revenue sank 12 percent and circulation revenue fell 6.4 percent. Digital ad revenue alone, excluding acquisitions, did rise 4.4 percent. Print ad sales are still about three times the size of digital ad sales.

McLean, Virginia-based Gannett posted a third-quarter loss of $24.2 million, or 21 cents per share, compared with a profit of $39.2 million a year ago. Excluding one-time costs, Gannett said it posted a 6-cent profit on a per-share basis, short of the 17-cent estimate of three analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research. Revenue rose 10 percent to $772.3 million; Zacks predicted $769 million.

Gannett Co. shares tumbled 16.5 percent to $8.27 in afternoon trading Thursday. The stock is down about 39 percent over the past year.


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Keywords: Gannett Co., Earnings Report