The McClatchy Co. today reported a net loss from continuing operations in the fourth quarter of 2008 of $20.4 million, or 25 cents per share, including a pre-tax non-cash impairment charge of $59.6 million related to newspaper mastheads. Adjusted earnings from continuing operations were $21.8 million, or 26 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2008. Total net loss including discontinued operations was $21.7 million, or 26 cents per share in the 2008 fourth quarter.
McClatchy noted that the duration and depth of the economic recession have taken a severe toll on its advertising revenues. Given the unprecedented deterioration in revenues and with no visibility of an improving economy, the company is continuing to reduce expenses. McClatchy announced that it is developing a plan to reduce costs by an additional $100 million to $110 million, or approximately seven percent of 2008 cash expenses, over the next 12 months beginning later in the first quarter of 2009. Details of the plan have not yet been finalized and as a result, costs to complete the plan are not yet known. In addition, the company will freeze its pension plans and temporarily suspend the company match to its 401(k) plans, effective March 31, 2009. The company will extend a salary freeze for senior executives in 2009 that was implemented in 2007. The company previously announced that it had implemented a company-wide salary freeze from September 2008 through September 2009. Gary Pruitt, McClatchy's chairman and chief executive officer, also has declined any bonus for 2008 and 2009. In addition, other senior executives will not receive bonuses for 2008.
Commenting on McClatchy's results, Pruitt said, "2008 was a difficult and disappointing year. We faced troubled economic times and structural changes in our business.
"Still, 2008 was a good year for our online business; online audiences and revenues rose sharply. In the fourth quarter, average monthly unique visitors to our websites were up 25.3% and were up 33.5% for all of 2008. Online advertising revenues grew 10.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008 and were up 47.3% excluding employment advertising, a category that has been impacted both online and in print by the nationwide decline in jobs.
"But the economy remains mired in recession and our industry is still in a period of transition. The advertising environment continues to be weak and we expect print advertising revenues to continue to be down. While we do not have final advertising revenue results for January, we know that the month was slower than the fourth quarter. We don't have any better sense than other market observers as to how long the current recession will last and we do not yet have visibility of revenue trends."