Company Delivers Year-Over-Year Income Growth Along with Significant Growth in Digital Subscribers
Tribune Publishing Company (NASDAQ:TPCO) today announced financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 29, 2019. Unless otherwise noted, amounts and disclosures throughout this earnings release relate to continuing operations and exclude all discontinued operations including the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune and other assets of the California News Group (collectively, the “California properties”) and forsalebyowner.com.
2019 Full Year Highlights:
- Income from continuing operations increased by $43.0 million compared to 2018
- Earnings per share from continuing operations improved by $0.39 from prior year
- Total operating expenses decreased $100.9 million compared to 2018
- Adjusted EBITDA grew 8.0% to $101.4 million, an increase of $7.5 million over prior year
- Digital-only subscribers increased 33.6% to 334,000 at the end of the fourth quarter 2019, up from 250,000 at the end of the fourth quarter 2018
- The Company returned $62.9 million to shareholders through a $1.50 per share special dividend in the third quarter and a $0.25 dividend in the fourth quarter
Terry Jimenez, Tribune Publishing CEO and President, said, “In 2019 we continued to see sustained growth in our digital subscriptions business. Thanks to the efforts of our newsrooms, our digital-product and our digital-subscriber groups, we exceeded our goal of 330,000 digital-only subscribers in 2019, ending the year at 334,000. This represents an increase of 33.6% from last year and inspires confidence in the Company’s trajectory as it continues its digital transformation.”
Mr. Jimenez continued, “We made significant investments in the Company throughout the year, hiring more than 250 editorial employees in 2019. We also invested in our digital products, rolling out a new, state-of-the-art content management system. Furthermore, our relentless execution and cross functional leadership drove a significant year-over-year improvement in income from continuing operations and adjusted EBITDA, and we are pleased to be able to return capital to our shareholders through a recurring dividend. This demonstrates the confidence we have in our ability to generate cash flow. Our intense focus on our mission and our strategic initiatives will yield the best outcomes for our people, customers and shareholders. As we progress through 2020, we are optimistic about the strength of our business and the opportunities that lie ahead.”
At the core of our success is the journalism our newsrooms produce. Tribune remains a leading news source for our readers, and we are proud of the impact our reporting has across the communities we serve.”
2019 Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results
Fourth quarter 2019 total revenues were $252.3 million, down $31.2 million or 11.0% compared to $283.5 million for fourth quarter 2018. The decrease primarily reflects M segment revenue declines of $30.1 million and a $4.9 million revenue decrease associated with the Company's Transition Service Agreement with the California properties, partially offset by $2.9 million in increased digital only subscription revenue. Total revenues for the full year 2019 were $983.1 million, down 4.6% from 2018.
Fourth quarter 2019 total advertising revenue and digital advertising revenue were $105.8 million and $25.8 million, respectively. Excluding the impact associated with the 2018 agreement with Cars.com to convert Tribune Publishing's eight affiliate markets into Cars.com's direct retail channel, total digital advertising revenue would have increased 4.0% year-over-year.
Total operating expenses, including depreciation and amortization, in the fourth quarter of 2019 were $255.2 million, down 11.2%, compared to $287.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Total operating expenses for the full year decreased $100.9 million from the prior-year period. These decreases resulted from the Company’s ongoing strong cost management.
Loss from continuing operations was $4.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared to income of $4.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, driven partially by an increase of $5.6 million in taxes. For the full year, the Company reported income from continuing operations of $3.1 million compared to a loss from continuing operations in 2018 of $39.9 million.
Adjusted EBITDA was $30.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, versus $46.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Full year adjusted EBITDA of $101.4 million increased $7.5 million or 8.0% over 2018.
For the full year ended December 29, 2019, capital expenditures totaled $18.6 million. Cash balance at December 29, 2019, was $61.0 million, which excludes $37.3 million of restricted cash reflected in long-term assets.
The Company operates in two segments: M, which is comprised of the Company’s media groups excluding their digital revenues and related expenses, except digital subscription revenues when bundled with a print subscription, and X, which includes all digital revenues and related expenses of the Company from local Tribune Publishing websites, third party websites, mobile applications, digital-only subscriptions, Tribune Content Agency and BestReviews.
Included in the tables below is segment reporting for M and X for the fourth quarters of 2019 and 2018.
Fourth quarter 2019 M total revenues were $197.0 million, down 13.3% compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 reflecting primarily advertising revenue declines.
Fourth quarter 2019 operating expenses for M decreased 14.0% compared to the prior-year quarter, driven by ongoing cost management.
Fourth quarter 2019 income from operations for M was $2.1 million versus $0.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Adjusted EBITDA was $22.5 million versus $33.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Total revenues for X for the fourth quarter of 2019 were $53.2 million, up 7.7%, primarily driven by growth in digital only subscription revenue and BestReviews.com, partially offset by the Cars.com impact. Fourth quarter 2019 advertising revenues for X decreased 1.8% year-over-year primarily due to the change in the Company’s Cars.com arrangement. Content revenues in the fourth quarter of 2019, which includes digital-only subscriptions, content syndication and ecommerce revenues, increased by 18.6% year-over-year.
Fourth quarter 2019 income from operations for X was $8.2 million versus $6.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Adjusted EBITDA was $12.7 million versus $14.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Digital-only subscribers grew to 334,000, up 33.6% from the prior year and up 6.5% sequentially from the third quarter of 2019.
The Company expects full year 2020 Adjusted EBITDA will be a range of $100.0 million to $105.0 million.
For the first quarter of 2020, the Company expects revenue to range from $210.0 million to $215.0 million and Adjusted EBITDA to range from $12.0 million to $13.0 million.
Conference Call Details
Tribune Publishing will host a conference call to discuss the Company’s fourth quarter 2019 results at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time (4:00 p.m. Central Time) on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. The conference call may be accessed via Tribune Publishing’s Investor Relations website at investor.tribpub.com or by dialing 844.209.4036 (478.219.0556 for international callers) and entering conference ID 3180299. An archived version of the webcast will also be available for one year on the Tribune Publishing website. To access the replay via telephone, available until March 11, 2020, dial 855.859.2056 (404.537.3406 for international callers), conference ID 3180299.
Non-GAAP Financial Information
Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted total operating expenses, Adjusted Net Income, and Adjusted Diluted EPS. These are not measures presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States ("U.S. GAAP" or "GAAP") and Tribune Publishing’s use of the terms Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted total operating expenses, Adjusted Net Income, and Adjusted Diluted EPS may vary from that of others in the Company’s industry. Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted total operating expenses, Adjusted Net Income, and Adjusted Diluted EPS should not be considered as an alternative to net income (loss), income from operations, operating expenses, net income (loss) per diluted share, revenues or any other performance measures derived in accordance with U.S. GAAP as measures of operating performance or liquidity. Further information regarding Tribune Publishing’s presentation of these measures, including a reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted total operating expenses, Adjusted Net Income and Adjusted Diluted EPS to the most directly comparable U.S. GAAP financial measure, is included below in this press release.
Cautionary Statements Regarding Forward-looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 that are based largely on our current expectations and reflect various estimates and assumptions by us. Forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks, trends and uncertainties that could cause actual results and achievements to differ materially from those expressed in such forward-looking statements. Such risks, trends and uncertainties, which in some instances are beyond our control, include, without limitation, changes in advertising demand, circulation levels and audience shares; competition and other economic conditions; our ability to develop and grow our online businesses; changes in newsprint price and availability; our ability to maintain data security and comply with privacy-related laws; economic and market conditions that could impact the level of our required contributions to the defined benefit pension plans to which we contribute; decisions by trustees under rehabilitation plans (if applicable) or other contributing employers with respect to multiemployer plans to which we contribute which could impact the level of our contributions; our ability to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting; concentration of stock ownership among our principal stockholders whose interest may differ from those of other stockholders; and other events beyond our control that may result in unexpected adverse operating results. For more information about these and other risks see Item 1A (Risk Factors) of the Company’s most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and in the Company’s other reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The words “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “could,” “should,” “intend,” “may,” “will,” “plan,” “seek” and similar expressions generally identify forward-looking statements. However, such words are not the exclusive means for identifying forward-looking statements, and their absence does not mean that the statement is not forward looking. Whether or not any such forward-looking statements, in fact occur will depend on future events, some of which are beyond our control. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements, which are being made as of the date of this press release. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
About Tribune Publishing Company
Tribune Publishing (NASDAQ:TPCO) is a media company rooted in award-winning journalism. Headquartered in Chicago, Tribune Publishing operates local media businesses in eight markets with titles including the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida's Sun-Sentinel, Virginia’s Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot, The Morning Call of Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, and the Hartford Courant.
In addition to award-winning local media businesses, Tribune Publishing operates national and international brands such as Tribune Content Agency and The Daily Meal and is the majority owner of the product review website BestReviews.
Our brands are committed to informing, inspiring and engaging local communities. We create and distribute content across our media portfolio, offering integrated marketing, media, and business services to consumers and advertisers, including digital solutions and advertising opportunities.