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Providence Journal parent in the red on pension-split charge

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DALLAS – A.H. Belo Corp., the parent company of The Providence Journal, posted a net loss of $119.51 million for the fourth quarter, after recording a pre-tax $132.3 million pension withdrawal charge on the Jan. 3 split of its pension fund from its former parent company, Belo Corp.

The charge for splitting the G.B. Dealey Retirement Pension Plan into separately sponsored plans represents A.H. Belo’s unfunded pension liability for its employees and retirees.

A.H. Belo will make an additional $30 million cash contribution into the new defined-benefit pension plans, AHC Pension Plans, in the first quarter; a final assessment and reconciliation is slated for June 30.

A.H. Belo’s net loss was $5.65 per share for the fourth quarter, compared with a profit of 27 cents per share for the same quarter 2009. Revenue for the three months was $130.85 million, down 3.4 percent when compared with the same quarter 2009.

The company also reported full-year results, widening its loss to $124.24 million in 2010, or $5.92 per share, from $107.9 million, or $5.25 per share, in 2009.

Fueling its fourth-quarter decline, was a decrease in advertising revenue, including print and digital revenue, by 6 percent; A.H. Belo said the smallest decrease was at The Dallas Morning News, followed by The Press-Enterprise and The Providence Journal.

Distribution and commercial printing revenue in Providence and Riverside helped boost by 28 percent income from commercial printing, distribution and "other" revenue to $9.5 million, A.H. Belo said.

Advertising revenue for the full-year declined 11.9 percent; however, circulation revenue increased 3.3 percent to $141.1 million as “circulation pricing actions” in Dallas and Providence in 2009 continued to cycle through.

Existing and new commercial printing and distribution contracts coming on line in Dallas, Providence and Riverside, supported a 22 percent growth to $35.9 million under the “commercial printing, distribution and other revenue” category in 2010.

Operating expenses, excluding the effect of pension and impairment expenses, for both the fourth quarter and full year declined.

For the fourth quarter, consolidated operating expense was $259.8 million; excluding the pension expenses, it was $123.6 million, down 1.6 percent, driven by lower expenses for technology, bad debt and property tax.

For the full year, the consolidated expense was $625.4 million; with the exclusions, it was $476.0 million, a 10.2 percent decrease compared with the prior year. The savings were driven by lower salaries and wages, newsprint, technology and bad debt expense, A.H. Belo said.

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