There’s a publicly traded publisher in downtown Los Angeles that owns a couple of newspapers and sports a market capitalization of $270 million.
It’s the Daily Journal Corp., publisher of niche legal newspapers in Los Angeles and San Francisco that still doesn’t print in color. Yet its market cap is almost as great as the $286 million value of the Tribune Publishing Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Baltimore Sun.
The declining value of newspapers in general – and Tribune Publishing’s holdings in particular – has been put into sharp focus with last week’s firing of L.A. Times Publisher Austin Beutner and the news that Tribune Publishing’s chairman had solicited – and the rest of the directors subsequently rejected – an offer for the Times and Union-Tribune from billionaire Eli Broad.
Tribune Publishing’s value has sunk to where it is now on par not only with the Daily Journal but with that of West L.A. movie theater operator Reading International Inc. ($295 million market cap), and it is less than half that of Playa Vista ad tech company Rubicon Project Inc. ($628 million), which went public early last year.
Another comparison: BuzzFeed raised $200 million in a funding round last month from NBCUniversal Inc., a transaction that valued the online publisher at $1.5 billion – more than five times greater than Tribune Publishing.
That gulf between new and old media, coupled with the tribulations at the Times, have helped put the finances of the paper’s parent company under the microscope.
It isn’t a pretty picture.
Tribune Publishing was created last summer when Tribune Co. split in two. The profitable broadcasting properties and the newspapers’ real estate – including the Times’ headquarters at First and Spring streets in downtown Los Angeles – now belong to Tribune Media Co., which boasts a comparatively gaudy $3.7 billion market cap. (Market cap is the total value of all of a company’s stock outstanding and usually denotes the worth of that company.)
Tribune Publishing was left with 10 beleaguered daily newspapers in eight major U.S. markets. Its stock price has been cut nearly in half since late April, dropping to less than $11 last week from more than $19.
Tribune Publishing reported net income of $42 million on revenue of $1.7 billion last year, a 55 percent decrease from the previous year, due mainly to lower ad revenue and costs associated with the spinoff, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Tribune Publishing’s net income for the second quarter was only $3.4 million, way below the same quarter last year.
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