AH Belo optimistic former Dallas Morning News campus will have buyer by late 2018 or early 2019

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The company has consistently given tours of the property but expects now to start receiving formal and informal suggestions of what a potential buyer would pay, said Katy Murray, 
senior vice president and chief financial officer, in an interview.

The company has said it hopes to receive at least $30 million.

Decherd said the company is “looking really only for … straight cash deals,” but added that “we can’t predict how potential buyers will come forward.”

The former A. H. Belo campus abuts The News’  former corporate cousin WFAA-TV. Given the complexity of the deal and easement issues, it “may be that this closing takes longer than would be typical but not by much,” Decherd said on the call. “We’re looking optimistically to the end of this year. It may spill into 2019.”

A. H. Belo has about $57 million in cash and equivalents on its balance sheet and the campus sale could add another $30 million. One analyst wondered what was to become of that cash.

Decherd said that is a regular topic of conversation for the company’s board of directors, adding, “We’re not going to sit on $85 million of cash.”

In March, the company said there were “about a half a dozen companies that we’re actively engaged with” for a potential acquisition. Murray said Thursday those firms turned out to be “just not a fit.”

The News, which began publishing in 1885, is part of a market segment that’s been battered by a shift of consumers and advertisers from print newspapers to the internet.

In discussing the company’s fortunes, executives find good news in the strong balance sheet, including a lack of debt, and improving profit margins for the company’s marketing services company, Belo and Co.

That contrasts with a nearly 19 percent decline in revenue in the quarter ended June 30. The drop was due partly to an accounting change and to the loss of advertising from a major national grocer, which shifted its advertising strategy. The company declined to name the grocer.

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