Executive Business Briefing

June 12, 2002 at 12:14 PM
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Here is a look at more of Wednesday's top business stories:

Dow Jones sees earnings falling

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, N.J., June 12 (UPI) -- Dow Jones & Co. warned that its second-quarter earnings will fall short of Wall Street expectations as its flagship newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, suffers persistent slumping advertising revenue.

Dow Jones said it expects ad volume, or linage, at The Wall Street Journal to be down in the mid-20 percentage range on a per issue basis in June, dragging its second-quarter total linage down in the low 20-percent range -- worse than its previous forecast of negative 10 percent to 20 percent.

The company said it sees quarterly earnings in the "low 20-cent" range, within its previous forecast of 20 cents to 30 cents.

But the revised outlook is below Wall Street's target of 28 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial/ First Call.

Dow Jones posted a net income of 52 cents a share in the year-earlier quarter.

For the month of May, ad linage at The Wall Street Journal slid 24.4 percent, hit by weakness in technology advertising combined with weakness in communications, automotive, travel and professional services, partially offset by higher insurance and healthcare advertising.

Technology linage at the Journal, part of the general category, was down 44.1 percent in May, while other general advertising categories were down 10.2 percent.

Financial advertising linage for the Journal declined 44.8 percent in May compared to a decrease of 36.1 percent in May of last year, due to broad declines in both wholesale and retail advertising.

Classified/other linage was down 6.1 percent this May compared to a decrease of 11.9 percent in May 2001 due to an improving trend in real estate advertising.

Barron's national advertising pages declined 12.4 percent in May compared to a decline of 44.2 percent last year. Year-to-date linage at Barron's declined 14.9 percent on a per-issue basis compared to a decrease of 29.8 percent last year.

The Wall Street Journal Europe's per issue linage declined 15.4 percent in May compared to a decrease of 30.5 percent last year with a year-to-date total linage decline of 32.7 percent compared to a decrease of 16.2 percent last year.

The Asian Wall Street Journal's total linage declined 26.4 percent in May compared to a decrease of 25.0 percent last year with a year-to-date total linage decline of 35.4 percent compared to a decrease of 7.9 percent last year.

Weak technology and financial advertising were the primary factors for both the European and Asian Journals' advertising declines.

Safeway lowers earnings outlook

PLEASANTON, Calif., June 12 (UPI) -- Supermarket operator Safeway Inc. lowered its second quarter and full-year earnings estimates, citing increased competition and disruptions to its efforts to centralize buying and merchandising.

The company said it expects to earn 71 cents to 73 cents a share in the second quarter before one-time charges, below the Thomson Financial/First Call estimate of 77 cents a share.

For the year, the company said it revised its 2002 forecast to between $2.86 and $2.90 per share before charges, below the current First Call estimate of $3.15.

The company said the sales and income shortfall is a result of the continued softness in the economy, an increase in competitive activity, an overly aggressive shrink effort and disruptions associated with the centralization of buying and merchandising.

Steve Burd, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said, "While we are disappointed with our results, we firmly believe we can reverse current trends.

"We have just completed a midyear business review and are very encouraged by the plans that will be implemented in the remainder of this year. The company plans to invest 75 (percent) to 100 percent of its gross margin improvements to drive sales, slow down its shrink reduction efforts to allow more time for training store employees, and make adjustments in its marketing centralization initiative to ensure a smooth transition," Burd said.

Safeway also said it plans to reduce its capital spending plans for 2002 by approximately 10 percent to $1.9 billion from $2.1 billion. Based on the company's new profit and capital forecast, it expects to generate more than $500 million in free cash flow this year, which it plans to use to buy back stock or pay down debt, depending on market conditions and strategic alternatives.

The company also said it expects $60 million to $70 million of charges during the second quarter for severance costs related to the restructuring of a labor contract, severance and transition costs related to the centralizing marketing, and costs associated with store closures.

Safeway operates 1,782 stores in the United States and western Canada.

Macerich buys mall in California

SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 12 (UPI) -- Macerich Partnership LP said it had acquired a mall in California for $152.5 million as it expands its reach in the property market in the southern region of that state.

The Thousand Oaks mall acquisition will be funded by a loan of $108.5 million, with the balance coming from cash or borrowings under the company's line of credit.

The Oaks mall has annual tenant sales for mall shops of $437 per square foot and an occupancy level of about 92 percent.

Macerich Partnership is the operating arm of The Macerich Co., which recently reached a deal to buy Westcor Realty Limited Partnership for $742 million in cash and securities to strengthen its hold as a developer of malls and other retail properties in the Phoenix area.

Bailey steps down at Janus

KANSAS CITY, Mo., June 12 (UPI) -- Stilwell Financial Inc. said Tom Bailey will step down as president and chief executive of the company's Janus mutual fund group as of July 1.

The remaining five members of Janus' management committee will continue to run the firm's day-to-day operations, Stilwell said.

Bailey will remain chairman of the board of trustees of the Janus funds, a position he has held since launching Janus Fund in 1969.

He will continue working with the trustees, focusing primarily on reviewing and monitoring fund performance.

Stilwell also owns the Berger fund group and Nelson Money Managers PLC.

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