Circulation gains, ad revenue lift Times Q3

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NEW YORK -- The New York Times Co. reported higher third-quarter earnings Tuesday, bucking an industry trend, on gains in circulation revenue and better-than-expected advertising.

Its shares rose more than 6% in early trading.

The company, which also publishes the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune, earned $13.4 million in the three months ending Sept. 30, up 6.7% from $12.6 million a year earlier. Per-share earnings were flat at 9 cents.

Earnings from continuing operations, which exclude a group of TV stations that have since been sold, were 10 cents per share versus 6 cents per share a year ago.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had been expecting earnings of 10 cents per share.

Total revenue rose 2% to $754.4 million from $739.6 million a year ago and ahead of the $733.6 million that analysts had been expecting.

The company's shares jumped $1.19 or 6.5% to $19.60 in morning trading Tuesday.

Circulation revenue rose 3.9% in the quarter, following an increase in newsstand and home delivery prices in July. Advertising revenue were essentially flat, slipping 0.1% in the quarter -- still a better performance than most other newspaper publishers, which have been reporting declines.

September turned out to be a strong month for the Times, with advertising revenue rising 5.5% as a jump in national advertising outweighed declines in retail and classified. The results also included higher advertising from its About.com online information group.

Last week, a dissident shareholder abandoned a campaign to push for changes at The New York Times, including an abolition of the two-tier share structure that allows the Sulzberger family to keep control of the company. Hassan Elmasry, a fund manager for Morgan Stanley, sold his 7.2% stake after pressing for the changes for two years.

Most newspaper publishers have been reporting weaker results this period as a downturn in the housing market takes its toll on real estate advertising. Newspapers are also struggling with an ongoing migration of readers and advertising dollars to the Web.

The Times, with its national footprint, tends to benefit more than most other companies from shifts in national advertising. That category rose 10.9% in the third quarter on gains from movie studios, financial services and other categories, while retail advertising fell 7.3% and classifieds fell 14.4%.
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