November 12, 2013 Last Updated 8:34 am

Lee Enterprises reports $77 million loss for fiscal 2013 after taking $171 million charge, touts gains in digital

Operating revenue for the 13 weeks ended September 29, 2013 totaled $162.5 million, a decrease of 9.5%

The newspaper chain Lee Enterprises reported its year-end fiscal results, and the report was not pretty as the company reported a huge loss in its Q4 earnings period, leaving the company with a $77 million loss on the year.

The loss was caused by a $171.1 million impairment charge which will be just over $100 million after taxes. Without this charge the results would have been only slightly below last year’s numbers. The charge was taken to write down the value of its properties. customer and newspaper subscriber lists and property. (Lovely tax system we have, don’t we?)

For the quarter advertising fell off a cliff, with retail down 9.5 percent and national off 12.5 percent. Mitigating this was the fact that the quarter contained 13 weeks of reporting time, while the same quarter in 2012 included 14 weeks. As a result, expenses were also down.

What Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck wanted to brag about was growth in digital revenue. “Aggressive digital and subscription revenue and business transformation initiatives have enabled Lee to continue delivering strong, improving cash flow and rapid debt reduction,” said Junck.

Mobile ad revenue increased to $1.5 million in the quarter, still quite small, but representing a 65 percent gain over the same period last year. Digital revenue overall grew 4.3 percent to $19.8 million, and with one less week of reporting period compared to last year.

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