Washington Post Co. profit jumps in third quarter

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009; 10:18 AM

Third-quarter profit at The Washington Post Co. rose 69 percent compared with the same period last year, as the flagship newspaper trimmed losses and the company's education and cable businesses kept growing.

The Post Co. earned $17.1 million ($1.81 per share) on $1.14 billion in revenue during the period from July to September, the company said Friday morning, compared with $10.4 million ($1.08) on $1.12 billion in revenue in the third quarter of last year.

The company's newspaper division, which includes The Post and several smaller papers, lost $23.6 million in the quarter, bringing 2009 losses to $166.7 million, compared with losses of $178.3 million through the first nine months of 2008. Like most newspapers, The Post was hit hard by the recession, which further eroded advertising revenue, already in decline for years.

In addition to the newspaper, The Post Co. owns Kaplan Inc. educational business, CableOne, a small cable company whose customers live mainly in the Northwest and Gulf States, six television stations and several other print and online publications, including Slate, Express and El Tiempo Latino.

Kaplan continues to be the company's biggest revenue generator. The education business, which includes online and brick-and-mortar higher education campuses in addition to test prep, reported $685 million in third-quarter revenue, or 60 percent of The Post Co.'s total revenue. Revenue was up 14 percent in the third quarter, while operating income at Kaplan was $46 million, down 10 percent from the third quarter of last year because of a $25.4 million write-down in the value of some business units.

CableOne reported a 4 percent gain in third-quarter revenue, at $190 million, and a 3 percent drop in operating income, both compared with this time last year, owing to increased costs in the quarter. Operating income for the first nine months of this year is up 5 percent.

The advertising downturn has hit the company's television stations as well as the newspapers, and television revenue was down 17 percent compared with last year while operating income plunged 50 percent.

Daily circulation at The Post is down 3.6 percent for the first nine months of the year, and now stands at 600,800. Sunday circulation was down 3.7 percent and is now 840,100.

Shares of Post Co. stock are up a little more than 15 percent year-to-date, slightly less than rise in the Standard & Poor's 500.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company