NY Times profit soars on asset sales

The New York Times Co. said Thursday that first-quarter profit jumped sevenfold, boosted largely by the sale of its regional newspapers and shares in a New England sports group.

The company, which owns The Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune and About.com in addition to the flagship newspaper The New York Times, reported net income of $42.1 million, or 28 cents a share, in the first quarter of the year.

That compared with the year-ago period's profit of $5.4 million, or four cents a share.

Almost 70 percent of the first-quarter profit resulted from the January sale of Regional Media Group, which groups 16 newspapers. The sale brought in $140 million in cash.

Revenue slipped 0.3 percent in the first quarter, to $499.4 million, under pressure from a steep 23.1 percent drop in sales in its About Group online business.

The company's News Media Group saw revenue increase by 1.3 percent.

Advertising revenue fell 8.1 percent, while circulation increased 9.7 percent.

"The uneven US economic environment and uncertain global conditions continued to present challenges to the advertising marketplace," said Arthur Sulzberger, chairman and chief executive, in a statement.

Like other US newspapers, The New York Times has been struggling with declining print advertising revenue, falling circulation and the migration of readers to free news online.

The Times began charging in March 2011 for full access to NYTimes.com and it launched a subscription-only website for the Boston Globe in October.

Sulzberger noted that digital advertising revenues at the News Media Group were under pressure in the first two months of the year, resulting in a decline of 2.0 percent for the first quarter.

But he stressed the company's digital strategy, which has expanded the subscription base, was paying off.

Sulzberger said that paid subscriptions to all of the company's digital packages, e-readers and replica editions totaled roughly 472,000 as of March 18.

"This confirms once again the validity of our digital strategy, which has provided a successful model for the industry. Our readers have embraced digital subscriptions and we expect to build on this strong start as we embark on our second year of digital paid subscriptions."

Investors welcomed the quarterly results, pushing shares up 5.4 percent to $6.44 in opening New York trade.

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