Posted by: Aaron Pressman on April 24, 2007
Most of the big U.S. newspaper publishers announced their first quarter results over the past two weeks and the long-suffering sector has only seen its fortunes sink lower. Even the supposed salvation of the Internet has faded. But overseas, newspaper stocks are on fire.
Bloomberg reported on Monday that shares of foreign publishers gained 25% over the past year while their U.S.-based cohorts dropped almost 10%. Many of the best performers are in fast-growing but less developed markets like China and India. Shares of India’s Deccan Chronicle rose 81%, for instance. That may not be surprising as newspaper readership is expanding rapidly in those countries. But some European publishers also made the list of top performers thanks to cutting-edge Internet innovations. Schibsted ASA, owner of Norway’s top daily newspaper, has been investing in web projects since 1995 and gets almost half its revenue from the Internet. Its shares are up 51%.
Contrast that performance with McClatchy (MNI), down almost 30% in the past year. It posted first quarter results today showing profits down two-thirds to $9 million from $28 million a year earlier. The New York Times (NYT) last week reported quarterly earnings per share down one third as it trimmed projected online ad sales growth for 2007. Its shares have lost 2% over the past year. Tribune (TRB), going private soon in a deal with Sam Zell, posted a first quarter loss of almost $16 million versus profits of $103 million a year earlier. Thanks to the Zell buyout, its shares kept pace with the market, rising 16% over the past year.
Then again, getting access to shares of these non-U.S. fast-growers isn’t easy. Schibsted, for example, trades in Oslo and has so-called “F” shares
its ADR is listed on the pink sheets under SBSNF. “F” shares are like unofficial ADRs made by a brokerage firm or market maker in the U.S., as former Motley Fool writer Tom Jacobs explained on his blog a few months ago. Also remember that stocks traded on the pink sheets can be expensive to buy and sell because of higher commissions and illiquidity. I found no signs of India’s Deccan Chronicle while Jagran Prakashan and HT Media are pink sheeted (under JGRPF and HTMEF, respectively) without any price data on Yahoo Finance. Any guesses as to how long before an exchange-traded fund hits this niche?