Despite Late Year Drop, McClatchy Leads Newspaper Stock Performance

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Debt-laden newspaper company McClatchy Co. (NYSE: MNI) pulled itself off the penny stock list with a midyear one-for-10 stock split in June, and then posted impressive gains until well into the year. Despite a late year sell-off, it led newspaper stocks in what was a 2016 of generally dismal performance.

McClatchy shares rose almost 10% to $13.18. They were higher by over 60% in July. The company has a small market cap of $100 million, due primarily to a long-term debt load of $843 million, and pension and postretirement (their spelling) obligations of $527 million. In the quarter that ended September 26, revenue was $235 million, down from $251 million in the same period of 2015. McClatchy had a net loss of $9.8 million, compared to $1.1 million the year before. Much of the poor result was due to interest expense of $21 million.

New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) stock closed the year up 2% at $13.30. The company’s relative strength in the industry, particularly due to its huge paid digital subscription base, helped shares rally from an annual low in November to close the year with a market cap of $2.1 billion. Its third-quarter results were unimpressive. Revenue dropped 1% to $364 million. Net income dropped 97% to $406,000. However, The New York Times added a large number of subscribers just after the election. From November 8 to November 26, management said the paper had an increase of 132,000 paid subscriptions to its products.

Tronc Inc. (NASDAQ: TRNC), formerly known as Tribune Publishing, was involved in a bruising M&A battle with larger rival Gannett Co. Inc. (NYSE: GCI) through much of the year. Tronc shares were up 25% for 2016 in October, when Gannett appeared ready to raise its bid to close a buyout. The deal did not materialize. The stock closed the year flat at $13.87. Tronc has a market cap of $505 million. In the third quarter, it posted revenue of $308 million, down from $406 million in the same period the year before. Tronc had a loss of $10.4 million, compared to $8.6 million.

Gannett’s efforts to buy Tronc where partially to blame for a drop of 37% drop in its shares to $9.71. This gave it a market cap of $1.1 billion. Some investors also blamed poor third-quarter results. Revenue was $772 million, and Gannett lost $24 million, against a profit of $39 million in the same quarter a year ago.

The S&P 500 was up 11% this year. On that basis, newspaper stocks had a rough year.