Gannett (NYSE: GCI) Co. posted lower than expected earnings for the fourth quarter of 2011 after incurring special charges related to workforce restructuring and asset write-downs. A report also showed that its newspaper empire continues to struggle but that its digital business is up 11 percent for the year.
Gannett posted earnings of $0.49 a share for the fourth quarter, compared to $0.72 a share for the same quarter one year ago. Analysts had predicted earnings of $0.68.
The company noted that its earnings would have been $0.72 a share if it excluded special items. These included expenses related to the unexpected departure in October of its CEO due to health reasons and writedowns related to brands whose market values have diminished due to poor performance.
Advertising revenue from Gannett’s newspapers, including flagship USA Today, continued to decline as sales of real estate and legal ads were particularly soft. Overall advertising revenues in the publishing sector were $670.7 million in the quarter, compared to $722.3 million in the fourth quarter last year, a 7 percent decline.
Gannett’s broadcasting revenues, which have been a bright spot in recent quarters, also fell 14.2 percent in light of what the company says was weaker spending on political ads. This quarter, TV-related revenue was $199.8 million.
The most optimistic part of the report are Gannett’s digital operations, which are both profitable and growing. The company cited particularly strong results at its Career Building site as helping to drive $185 million in digital revenue last quarter, a 9.1 percent increase from a year ago. If digital revenues related to publishing are folded in, the company had digital revenues of $290.3 million for the quarter.
Gannett says its USAToday.com website and related apps are among the most popular on the web and that its consolidated domestic Internet audience share was 50.8 million unique visitors. It says its Newsquest product in the UK is also popular.
The numbers were announced prior to the market opening. Gannett’s stock fell has since almost five percent to $14.48 in morning trading while the general market was down less than one percent.
The company’s full release can be found here.