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Star Tribune posts $18.3 million net loss in bankruptcy

The media company emerged from Chapter 11 on Sept. 28, but during its eight-month bankruptcy stay, posted a $15.3 million operating loss made worse by legal and restructuring fees.
By David Brauer 

I wasn’t sure if I’d get another month of Star Tribune operating reports, but the final final one is in and I can now give you complete Chapter 11 financial data.

For September (technically Aug. 31 to Sept. 27, the day before the Strib emerged from bankruptcy), the company posted a hefty $2 million operating profit, only the third in nine months and by far the biggest.

The explanation? Remarkably low compensation expenses, which fell from roughly $8 million a month to $4.7 million. The bankruptcy filing contains no explanation. However, it’s likely a one-time event, since fourth-quarter projections filed earlier with the court bounce back to that $8-ish million number.

Meanwhile, heftier-than-normal reorganization costs — $4.8 million — plus a $1.1 million tax benefit gave the Strib a $1.6 million net loss for the period.

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For the entire bankruptcy period (Jan. 15-Sept. 27), the Strib grossed $134 million and spent $127 million. That put EBITDA (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) at $7 million. EBITDA measures cash flow an operating business produces.

Toss in $22.3 million in non-cash depreciation charges, and Strib’s operating loss totaled $15.3 million. Reorganization expenses and income-tax credits brought the net loss to $18.3 million.

Thanks to the Strib’s reported results and its fourth-quarter projections, we’re able to gin up nearly complete 2009 operating statement. (Only the first two weeks of January are missing; you could add about $4 million on the revenue and expense side to get a full-year estimate.)

Revenues: $184.3 million
Operating expenses excluding depreciation: $173.6 million
EBITDA: $16.5 million (includes one-time, fourth-quarter pension add-back)
Depreciation and amortization: $25.6 million
Operating loss: $15.2 million
Net loss: $19.6 million

All told, the paper’s bankruptcy lawyers and financial consultants have requested about $13 million.

Between 2010 and 2012, the Strib projects annual operating income in the $6 million to $9 million range, EBITDA between $20 million and $26 million, and net losses of $1 million to $2 million. As noted previously, some experts find the projections too optimistic, but all the numbers are educated guesses at this point.