Gannett Co. yesterday reported revenue and profit increases for both the fourth quarter and all of 2002, mirroring the rebound reported by many newspaper companies over the past weeks.
For the three months ending Dec. 29, Gannett -- which publishes USA Today and 93 other newspapers and owns 22 television stations -- reported net income of $347 million ($1.29 per share), a 40 percent increase over the same period of 2001, when the McLean-based company earned $248.4 million (93 cents).
For the year, the company reported net income of $1.16 billion ($4.31), a 40 percent increase over 2001's net income of $831.2 million ($3.12).
Gannett attributed the gains to a surfeit of political advertising at its television stations and a decline in newsprint costs of 13 percent for the quarter. Gannett said the fourth quarter was the strongest in 2002 for its newspaper division.
USA Today's advertising revenue grew 2 percent in the quarter, the first year-over-year increase since 2000. For the year, however, USA Today's ad revenue dropped 6 percent, to $314 million, and the number of paid pages fell 11 percent. The company also benefited from a change in accounting principles that reduced charges related to goodwill in 2002.
Gannett's total revenue for the quarter, $1.73 billion, and year, $6.42 billion, rose from a year earlier. In 2001, fourth-quarter sales were $1.61 billion and annual revenue totaled $6.3 billion. Most rival newspaper companies reaped the effects of a rebounding ad market in the fourth quarter, as the industry appears to be showing steady recovery from 2001, the worst year in advertising since World War II.
The Washington Post Co.'s net income for the fourth quarter of 2002 was $93.7 million, up from $14.5 million a year earlier. But net income for all of 2002 was $204.3 million, down from $229.6 million in 2001, illustrating that recovery came late last year.
New York Times Co., which counts the Boston Globe, eight television stations and two radio stations among its holdings, reported net income of $107.5 million in the fourth quarter, a 45 percent increase from a year earlier.
Tribune Co., owner of the Baltimore Sun as well as 11 other newspapers and 24 television stations, reported fourth-quarter net income of $193.5 million, up from $106.8 million in the same period of 2001.
Knight Ridder Inc., whose 32 newspapers include the Philadelphia Inquirer, reported a profit of $96.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2002, up from $75 million for the same period of 2001.
Media General Inc., the Richmond-based owner of the Richmond Times-Dispatch as well as 24 other newspapers and 26 television stations -- reported fourth-quarter net income of $21.6 million, up from $7.9 million for the 2001 period.
On the other hand, Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, continued to struggle. It reported net income of $15.2 million for the fourth quarter, down from $32.1 million in the year-earlier period. Revenue for the fourth quarter and all of 2002 were down from 2001, thanks to the Journal's dependence on telecommunications and financial institution advertising, categories that have yet to recover.
* Watson Wyatt & Co. Holdings, a Washington-based human resources consultancy, said it earned $12.1 million (36 cents per share) in its second fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 31, compared with net income of $10.1 million (30 cents) a year earlier. Revenue was essentially flat at $174.6 million.
The company said its results were better than expected because of better performance in its Asian and Latin American operations, as well as income from a captive insurance operation.