Washington Post Co. absorbs $45M loss in 4Q


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Post Co. said Friday that it lost $45.4 million in the fourth quarter, as the company absorbed a variety of one-time charges to account for problems and cutbacks at its flagship newspaper and Kaplan education division.

The loss amounted to $6.57 per share. The results for the final three months of 2012 contrasted with a profit of $61.7 million, or $8.03 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

If not for the charges, the Post Co. said it would have earned $78.8 million, or $10.61 per share, from its ongoing operations in its most recent quarter, compared with $68.4 million, or $8.91 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Revenue grew 1 percent to $1.05 billion.

After the results came out, the Post Co.'s stock fell $5.27, or 1.3 percent, to close Friday at $407.13.

The Washington Post newspaper, like other publications, has been beset with a decline in print advertising revenue. Until recently, the success of Kaplan's schools and test preparation services helped bolster the Post Co.'s overall results.

But Kaplan is no longer thriving. Tougher federal regulations forced the company to change its admissions standards. Kaplan is now required to ensure that students don't take on a lot of debt to attend the for-profit school unless there is a realistic chance they can graduate. The company has made it tougher for students to be admitted into its schools and revised its recruitment programs.

That has led to smaller enrollment. Kaplan's enrollment was 65,470 students at the end of last year, a decline of 12 percent, or nearly 9,100 students, from the previous year. Fourth-quarter revenue in the education division fell 6 percent from the previous year to $544 million. As a result, Kaplan is closing some campuses and jettisoning staff.

The downturn has diminished how much Kaplan's business is worth. To account for the erosion in value, the Post Co. booked a non-cash charge of $111.6 million before taxes in the fourth quarter. The company also took a $41.2 million charge for the costs of severance and early retirement payments to workers whose jobs were eliminated at Kaplan and the newspaper business. Another $18 million write-down was taken on one of the Post Co.'s investments, which the company didn't identify.

The company's newspaper publishing division eked out a fourth-quarter operating profit of $2.6 million, despite the continuing drop in advertising. It was $6.8 million a year earlier. Print advertising revenue at The Washington Post declined another 12 percent from the previous year to $67.5 million.

The newspaper division's digital ad revenue, including contributions from, climbed 5 percent from the previous year to $33.1 million. The gains in digital revenue, however, haven't come close to making up for the deterioration in print advertising. For instance, digital revenue in the Post Co.'s newspaper division increased about $1.6 million from the previous year. The Washington Post's print advertising revenue decreased by $9.6 million over the same period.

The newspaper division also included The Herald in Everett, Wash., during the fourth quarter. The Post Co. announced plans to sell The Herald earlier this month.

Television helped shore up the Post Co. during the fourth quarter.

Cable-TV revenue rose 6 percent from the previous year to nearly $202 million. Revenue from broadcast-TV channels totaled $116 million, a 32 percent increase from the previous year. Much of the increase was from political advertising in a presidential election year.

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