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(April 16, 2001) -- Reflecting an advertising slowdown that's hitting its New England newspapers and its flagship paper the hardest, the New York Times Co. announced its earnings before one-time items for the first quarter of 2001 declined 26%. Profits totaled $61.3 million, or 37 cents a share, down from 47 cents a share the year before.

Through the end of March, the company's ad revenues were off 8.5% at The New York Times and off 14.8% at its New England Newspapers unit, which includes the Boston Globe. For all of its newspapers, classified ad linage was off 20.8%.

In a conference call with analysts, New York Times president-general manager Janet Robinson said the advertising decline at the paper continued into April, with categories like entertainment, e-commerce, technology and help-wanted classifieds looking particularly weak. She did, however, expect for entertainment to bounce back later this year, thanks to several high-profile films due to hit the market.

The company also lowered its full-year target earnings-per-share growth to range between 2% and 6%. On March 5, the company had said it expected full-year EPS growth to be between 10% and 15%.

Last month the company had warned analysts, whose consensus for first-quarter earnings was 45 cents a share, that profits would fall to between 35 cents and 38 cents a share. Last week, the company had announced it would cut staff by an as-yet-undetermined amount, and New York Times Digital CEO Martin Nisenholtz had warned staffers that layoffs in that unit would take place this week.

Separately, the company announced its circulation statements to the Audit Bureau of Circulation would show slight increases in daily and Sunday circulation, with daily circulation increasing 0.9% to 1,159,954, and Sunday circulation increasing 0.4% to 1,698,281. --Jon Fine and Mercedes Cardona

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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