Torstar pressured by print advertising revenue decline in first quarter

TORONTO – Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) tightened losses in the first quarter even as it faced more pressure from a decline in print advertising revenues at its newspapers.

The publisher of the Toronto Star and various other daily and community newspapers in Ontario said Wednesday that net losses attributable to shareholders improved to $3.7 million, or five cents per share. The results compared with a deeper loss of $7.1 million, or nine cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Segmented revenue fell nine per cent to $192.3 million, primarily due to lower print advertising revenue.

Adjusted segmented earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, dropped nearly 23 per cent to $11.2 million, though Torstar benefited from a $6-million gain from the digital media tax credit provided by the Ontario government.

Torstar president and CEO David Holland said efforts to reduce costs were more than offset by the advertising revenue decline.

“The year got off to a slow start in January but we have seen some relative improvement since then,” he said in a release.

Torstar says it will be difficult to predict advertising trends throughout the year, while revenues from its flyer distribution business will likely be hurt by recent closures of major retailers and other financial pressures in the retail industry.

The Toronto Star removed its paywall at the end of the quarter and the company expects digital revenue will grow for the remainder of the year as it prepares for the launch of its new tablet application this fall.

Torstar holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with the corporate parent company of the Globe and Mail and the parent company of Montreal’s La Presse.