Gannett Eyes Hollinger Assets, Would Expand Newspaper Dominance
At an analyst's meeting in New York City that was broadcast over the Internet at Gannett's Web site, Chief Executive Officer Douglas McCorkindale confirmed that it was taking a close look at Hollinger's financials.
"We are looking at the books, as is just about everyone," McCorkindale said. But he also said that two British magnates, who were thwarted in an earlier effort to buy Hollinger from former owner Conrad Black, could end up prevailing over Gannett if they were willing to "step up to a big number in the UK."
Gannett's Newsquest division publishes regional newspapers in the United Kingdom. Hollinger's prize would be the Telegraph. McCorkindale acknowledged that at the right price, the Telegraph would be a fit for Gannett.
McCorkindale also told analysts that the newspaper industry wasn't as bleak as some of the earlier newspapers' reports had suggested. Gannett's newspaper advertising rose 9 percent in February.
"We're still cautious. The economy is still showing some signs of recovery, but very slowly and unevenly," he said.
Also on Wednesday, Tribune Co.'s advertising revenues from publishing in February 2004 rose 4.3 percent to $246 million, compared to $236 million last February. Total ad inches were up 4 percent.
Retail ad revenue rose 1.8 percent, with strength in home furnishings, food, and other retail categories, although department stores and electronics were down. Retail linage dropped 5 percent in February. National advertising revenues were up 3.9 percent, led by financial, movies/entertainment, and high-tech, although auto was slower. National volume was up 4 percent. Classified ad revenues were up 7.7 percent, with a 16 percent gain in help wanted and mid-single-digit increases for auto and real estate. Classified volume was up 2 percent.
Tribune owns not only the Chicago Tribune, but also the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and the Baltimore Sun, among other newspapers.