At some point, the people who insist About.com is for sale may be right — a stopped clock is right twice a day, too. But while others see it as an asset that could raise money, New York Times (NYSE: NYT) CEO Janet Robinson says About.com is too valuable to the company. As for selling the whole enchilada, when asked, Robinson emphatically told investors at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference that was a non-starter, too: “The family has made it very clear internally and externally that they have no intention of selling the company.”
Then again, the family is still getting a dividend — albeit a much smaller one since the board slashed the amount last month. The total payout to shareholders will be about $36 million, or 6 cents per share, down considerably from $133 million, or 23 cents per share. One investor challenged the continued existence at all of a dividend, suggesting between that and the decision not to seek the most credit possible “it seems like you may not understand the gravity of the situation.” CFO Jim Follo said the reduced payment struck “the right balance between maintaining flexibility and returning cash to shareholders.”
Keeping on the theme, NYTCo execs repeated today that it continues to look at the portfolio for assets that no longer fit or might be sold for other reasons. But Follo also questioned the feasibility of divesting in this market. More from UBS after the jump.
– Digital forecast: Digital head Martin Nisenholtz echoed what we’ve been hearing from other media companies: “The first three quarters of the year were good … When November hit, there was a softness that we saw, it looks like that is accelerating into December.” That means next year is going to differ from initial projections, as is the case with others. About.com is still seeing growth in cost-per-click and that’s expected to continue. “The reason you’re seeing the possibility of single digit is display is under stress.” In what may be the understatement of the day: “The trend line of display over the past couple of months has not been good.”