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Lee, owner of Globe Gazette, reports another loss

by Matt Marquardt –

MASON CITY – Lee Enterprises Inc., owner of the Globe Gazette in Mason City and other newspapers, reported a 54 cent per share loss ($26.6 million) for its latest quarter. Lee attributed the loss to costs associated with its emergence from bankruptcy. For the same quarter last year, Lee reported a loss of just 3 cents per share.

Key points from Lee’s earnings report:

– Lee’s revenue fell 3.6% to $172.3 million, down from $178.7 million a year ago

– Combined print and digital advertising revenue deceased 5.7%

–  Print revenue decreased 7.6%

– Compensation decreased 5.5%, with the average number of full-time employees down 7.4%

– Newsprint and ink expense decreased 8.5% as a result of a reduction in newsprint volume of 7.6%

Lee is pinning some of its hopes for the future on a move to digital subscriptions for its news websites. Lee plans to introduce digital subscriptions or what some call “paywalls” within three months. It is not known when or if the Globe Gazette’s website will be included in Lee’s digital subscription plan.

In other Lee news, it was reported by the Wall Street Journal last week that Warren Buffett had bought a stake in the company last November, buying $85 million of Lee debt from Goldman Sachs Group. Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. reportedly paid 65 cents on the dollar on the debt.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lee’s largest paper, reported that Lee owed about $965 million as of January, 2012.

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