Before special items, operating income for the quarter totaled $12.3 million, down 59.7% from a year earlier. The key special item was a net gain of $122.9 million from the sale of four Ottaway community newspapers.
Dow Jones posted a net profit of $129.8 million, or $1.53 a share, compared with $6.2 million, or 7 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding the gain from the sale of the four community newspapers and other one-time items, earnings fell 53% to $6.9 million, or 8 cents per share, compared with $14 million or 17 cents per share a year earlier. Analysts expectations ranged from 5 cents to 12 cents per share, with an average of 9 cents, according to research firm Thomson Financial/First Call.
Print publishing revenues declined 20.9% in the first quarter to $236.1 million, and advertising linage at The Wall Street Journal fell 25% on a per-issue basis. Print publishing posted an operating loss of $8.8 million in the first quarter, as a modest profit at The Wall Street Journal was offset by losses at its international editions. Dow Jones said it expects linage at The Wall Street Journal to be down 10% to 20% in the second quarter.
Paid subscribers to The Wall Street Journal Online, the largest paid subscription news site on the web, continued to grow, reaching 640,000 as of March 31. Nonetheless, electronic publishing revenue decreased 4.4% in the first quarter to $77.8 million.