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Lee Enterprises' 4Q loss widens on non-cash charge

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November 11, 2013 06:50 PM EST | AP

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Lee Enterprises Inc.'s losses widened in the latest quarter, as the newspaper company absorbed an accounting charge to reflect the diminished value of its publications.

Lee, the owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and 49 other daily newspapers, recorded a non-cash charge of $171 million before taxes. Like other newspaper publishers, Lee has been selling more digital ads, but the gains in that format so far haven't been enough to offset decreases in traditional print advertising.

The accounting charge left Lee with a loss of $88.7 million, or $1.71 per share, in the fiscal fourth quarter. That compared with a loss of $3.2 million, or 6 cents per share, during the same period a year ago. After taxes, the accounting charge came to $101 million, or $1.94 per share.

If not for the charge and other one-time items, Lee said it would have earned $13.1 million, or 25 cents per share, in the latest quarter.

The results announced Monday weren't entirely comparable to the same time last year because the two periods differed in length. The most recent quarter consisted of 13 weeks ending Sept. 29, compared with a 14-week stretch last year.

Revenue for the most-recent period declined 9 percent from a year earlier to $162 million. If last year's fiscal fourth quarter had been 13 weeks, Lee said revenue for this year's quarter would have been down 3 percent.

Lee emerged from a pre-packaged bankruptcy in January 2012 and has whittled its debt to $847.5 million — a level that the Davenport, Iowa, company hadn't expected to reach until 2015.

Lee's stock fell 17 cents, or 5.2 percent, to $3.12 in extended trading after the results came out.