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Star Tribune halves operating loss in March

The $700,000 monthly loss from the Strib’s March business operations is well below February’s $1.4 million deficit.
By David Brauer

No one’s popping champagne corks at 425 Portland, but according to court documents filed Monday, the bankrupt Star Tribune’s operating loss in March was $700,000 — half of the $1.4 million February loss.

All told, the paper has lost $2.5 million from business operations since the Jan. 15 bankruptcy filing. In 2008, the Strib made an operating profit of $31 million, which was not enough to keep with with payments on $480 million in debt.

Not included are the month’s bankruptcy costs — $1.53 million — offset by a $905,000 income tax benefit. All told, March’s net loss was $1.33 million, down from February’s $1.74 million.

Despite the red ink, the paper’s cash on hand rose to $36.2 million from $34 million in February. That’s up from a cash cushion of $25 million when management filed for Chapter 11. Previously, the cash bump has been credited to Christmastime advertisers paying off their accounts, but the paper’s accounts receivables remained steady for February and March, at roughly $22.5 million.

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The Strib did see an uptick in revenue, from $14.5 million in February to $15 million in March. Both reporting periods were 28 days (Feb. 2-March 1 and March 2-29.) Meanwhile, March expenses fell to $15.8 million from $15.9 million in February.

As noted last month, it’s unclear how and when post-bankruptcy labor savings are kicking in. Despite an April 13 deadline that came and went, ownership is still negotiating with several major unions, including its newsroom and drivers.

For the paper to emerge from bankruptcy, it will not only have to demonstrate it can make a profit, but also pay back whatever debt isn’t written off.