Net Loss of $19.9 Million; Revenue From Commissions Down 19%

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CHICAGO ( -- Leading radio sales rep firm Interep National Radio Sales reported a net loss of $19.9 million for 2001, attributing the steep decline to the weak economy, slumping ad market and the events of Sept. 11.

The $19.9 million loss is six times more than the previous year's loss of $3 million. Earnings-per-share decreased to a loss of $2.28 from a loss of 31 cents in 2000.

Interep, an independent national spot radio rep firm, is the exclusive sales arm for more than 2,000 radio stations nationwide, including radio stations owned by seven of the 10 largest radio groups by revenue.

Full-year revenue

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was down 5% to $101.8 million from $107 million the year earlier, and revenue from radio commissions, the company's core business, fell 19% to $80.4 million in 2001 from $99.8 million in 2000.

For the fourth quarter, the company reported a net loss of $9.3 million, down from positive net income of $2 million in the same quarter for 2000. Fourth-quarter earning-per-share slid to a loss of $1.03 from a gain of 23 cents in 2000. Fourth-quarter total revenue dropped 36% to $19.9 million from $31 million the year earlier.

Signs of recovery
With advertisers continuing to book broadcast time close to air dates, Interep said it is difficult to forecast long-term earnings, but it is seeing positive signs of recovery.

"Advertisers are booking an average of two to three weeks ahead of the flight start-date, vs. the four- to six-week norm, and as a result, it's difficult for us to get a clear picture ... but we believe the rebound has begun," said Interep Chairman-CEO Ralph Guild in a conference call, citing slight positive gains in the first quarter of this year.

Many radio ad categories -- including movies, fast food, restaurants, airlines, beer and wine -- are pacing up, Mr. Guild said. Radio's three largest categories were also seeing improvements so far in the first quarter: retail was up by single digits, telecommunications by 30% and automotive by 20%

Interep is forecasting flat to slightly higher revenue for 2002, in the range of $80 million to $82 million from radio commission.

Shift in ad dollars
The company expects revenue growth to come not only from a recovery in the general economy and advertising environment but also from a shift in ad dollars into radio from other media such as newspapers and TV.

During the recession in the early 1990s, Interep spearheaded an industrywide initiative to grab more ad dollars. Its efforts led to a shift of $1 billion to the medium that boosted its share of the ad pie from 6.5% in 1992 to 8.3% in 2000.

Last year, the company spent $1.5 million to launch another sales and marketing effort, which brought more advertisers to the medium. Mr. Guild said that Procter & Gamble Co., for example, historically a low spender on radio advertising, spent twice as much with Interep in the first quarter of 2002 than the same quarter last year to launch and promote several new products using radio.

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