Dear newspapers: Happy holidays from John Janedis
Take heed and rejoice, you hard-working newspaper elves. Someone on Wall Street thinks that some newspaper companies aren’t dancing quite as close to the abyss as conventional wisdom says.
Wells Fargo analyst John Janedis, never known for going too easy on newspaper stocks, raised his rating on USA Today publisher Gannett to “outperform” and his rating on The New York Times to “market perform.”
His explanation: “After years of downward revenue estimate revisions, it appears as though the newspaper ad market is improving more quickly than we previously anticipated, particularly in December. Given current trends, we now expect approx. high single digit decline in overall newspaper advertising in 2010.”
New York Times and Gannett shares are already rising in pre-market trading on Wednesday morning. They’re thinly traded to begin with and this is a time of generally low volumes anyway. That said, if those shares rise today, it won’t be just because they’re made of helium. I wouldn’t be too surprised if other newspaper stocks rise too. At a time when several U.S. newspaper publishers have filed for bankruptcy, advertising revenues are skidding, people are getting news for free online and no one in the journalism business has found a convincing way to adapt to the changing times, this is a real gift.
Here’s more from the Janedis note, mostly technical stuff, though we want to point out that he’s raising his fourth-quarter earnings estimates for both companies, another fine thing:
We are upgrading Gannett to OP from UP and New York Times to MP from UP. We raised our 4Q09 and F10 EPS estimate for GCI to $0.69 and $1.95 from$0.61 and $1.55, respectively and our valuation range to $18-$19 from $7-$8. We raised our 4Q09 and F10 EPS estimate for NYT to $0.43 and $0.67 from$0.42 and $0.61, respectively and our valuation range to $10-$11 from $7-$8. We are also increasing our sector rating to Market Weight from Underweight. …
The New York Times newspaper: Based on our checks and with only a few publishing days left in 4Q09, we think there’s a chance that the paper could post flattish ad revenue for the month. Categories demonstrating significant improvement are banks/financials, national auto, and telecom, all up 75%+. Key ROP advertisers MTD include AT&T, American Express and GM. While the sustainability is unclear, the comps remain particularly easy for the next several months. While still solidly negative, classifieds have also improved. …
While the historical conventional view has been to play the newspapers with more national exposure, we’re also seeing improvement in the classifieds and to some extent local ad market. …
Based on our revised estimates, GCI is trading at 7.5x and 6x our 2010E EPS and EV/EBITDA, respectively, while NYT is trading at 16.5 x and 6x.