For all of 2012, The Post Co. earned $131.2 million, or $17.39 a share, up 13 percent from $116.2 million, or $14.70 a share, in 2011.
Results at the company’s four main subsidiaries were mixed. The Kaplan education unit and the newspaper division continued to struggle; revenue at each dropped about 6 percent, and operating income fell sharply. But revenue and profits at The Post Co.’s regional TV broadcast stations surged thanks to a flood of political advertising. The company’s cable subsidiary also reported solid earnings.
Advertising and circulation trends at the company’s news division remained on a downward course, though, as a result of cost cutting. The division earned $2.6 million in the fourth quarter, down from $6.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Cost cutting is expected to continue; in the past week, two media Web sites have reported cutbacks on the paper’s business and mobile-technology areas.
Print advertising at The Washington Post slid 12 percent in the fourth quarter, to $67.5 million. A 5 percent increase in ad revenue, to $33.1 million, from the company’s online operations — primarily washingtonpost.com and Slate — made up about half the print ad decline in the fourth quarter.
Daily circulation at The Washington Post declined 8.6 percent, to an average of 471,800 for all of 2012, and Sunday circulation dropped 6.2 percent, to an average of 687,200.
One benefit of the paper’s woes: lower newsprint costs. Those expenses were down 10 percent in 2012 and in the fourth quarter. The company also announced that it had sold its 49 percent interest in troubled Bowater Mersey Paper Co., a forestry and paper mill business based in Nova Scotia, for a nominal amount. No gain or loss was recorded; the investment had already been written down to zero.
The company said accounting charges for pension plans depressed the newspaper’s earnings, even though the company has made no cash contributions to the overfunded plans for many years. For all of 2012, the newspaper lost $53.7 million, compared with $21.2 million in 2011. But the non-cash pension charges amounted to $42.4 million in 2012 and $25.3 million in 2011.
The company’s big Kaplan education division, which accounted for 55 percent of The Post Co.’s revenue in 2012, continued to struggle, as well. Revenue fell 6 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the previous year and fell 9 percent for the year.
Restructuring costs and goodwill charges weighed heavily on Kaplan’s operating income as it continued to close campuses and reduce its online program’s workforce. The company took $111.6 million of charges in the fourth quarter for the impairment of goodwill and other assets at Kaplan Test Prep, as well as $35.9 million in restructuring charges as it closes facilities, mostly at Kaplan Higher Education. Overall, the entire Kaplan division lost $111.9 million in the fourth quarter.