Merrill Lynch: Newspapers miss ’05 ad projections; ’06 outlook is weak

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New York—A report released this week by Merrill Lynch showed a 2% rise in ad revenue among the 11 major newspaper holding companies, which fell short of Merrill Lynch’s own projection of a 4% rise.

The report, “2005: A Year to Forget,” estimates that the average earnings per share among the holding companies fell 5% to 6% in 2005, with a 7% to 8% drop in the fourth quarter.

Merrill Lynch had predicted a 4% increase in EPS compared with 2005.

The investment bank predicts EPS growth of 2% for this year. What’s more, it said 2006 will be characterized by continuing volatility and forecast more cost containment to drive EPS growth.

Newspaper ad revenues continue to suffer from a loss of auto advertising to new marketing platforms, including the Web. Merrill Lynch said it underestimated the decline in auto ad revenues, which fell 10% in 2005.

—Matthew Schwartz

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