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Lee Enterprises reports third-quarter results
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Lee Enterprises reports third-quarter results

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Kevin Mowbray president and chief executive officer of Lee Enterprises speaks during the Lee Enterprises annual meeting in Davenport, Iowa Wednesday, February 19, 2020.

Lee Enterprises, the Davenport-based parent company of three local newspapers, reported its quarterly earnings Thursday morning.

For the quarter that ended June 28, Lee reported total operating revenue of $182,528 for the quarter, down from $426,238 from a year ago, underscoring the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Kevin Mowbray, president and chief executive officer, pointed to Lee’s earnings as $26.3 million for the quarter, which was $2.8 million higher than the high-end projection in Lee’s previous outlook.

Lee, which owns the Quad-City Times, Moline Dispatch-Argus and the Muscatine Journal, also detailed that single-copy revenue, or sales of a daily newspaper at a store, was down 26.9% in the quarter “due to the significant negative effects of COVID-19,” Mowbray said Thursday.

Lee implemented temporary and permanent cost reductions in the quarter, including what equaled a two-week furlough for all employees and 20% pay cuts for executives in the quarter on top of a previous pay cut in the fiscal year, said Tim Millage, Lee’s chief financial officer.

The media company continues to focus on growing its digital presence. It grew its digital-only subscribers to a total of 222,000, a 35.1% annualized increase over March 2020.

“Our post-pandemic operating strategy is to diversify and transform the services and products we offer advertisers. We have strong relationships with local advertisers, an impressive array of print and digital audiences and top-notch digital talent that will help us turn the tide on our revenue trend,” Mowbray said Thursday morning.

“Despite the significant negative impacts to our business from COVID-19, we remain very optimistic about the future of Lee Enterprises. We have the right strategy, focused on local news, information and advertising combined with a robust suite of digital products and the best operators in the business.

“We also secured a financing debt that all but eliminates our financing risk for 25 years. While uncertainty remains, we’re excited about the future of our company and we’re marching forward in confidence.”

Quad-City Times​

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