Lee Enterprises reports second quarter Adjusted EBITDA growth and strong digital growth

May 2, 2024

Adjusted EBITDA(1) growth of 5% YOY
Digital-only subscription revenue increased 48%(2) with subscriptions up 25%
Total Digital Revenue(3) of $71M represented 48% of total revenue

DAVENPORT, Iowa, May 02, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (NASDAQ: LEE), a digital-first subscription platform providing high quality, trusted, local news, information and a major platform for advertising in 73 markets, today reported preliminary second quarter fiscal 2024 financial results(4) for the period ended March 24, 2024.

“Lee delivered strong second quarter operating results as we improved overall revenue trends, managed operating expenses, and grew Adjusted EBITDA," said Kevin Mowbray, Lee's President and Chief Executive Officer. "We are pleased with our impressive digital subscription revenue growth and expanding digital subscriber base. We now have 745,000 digital subscribers, a 25% increase over the prior year. Digital-only subscription revenue grew 48%(2), and totaled nearly $75 million over the last twelve months, positioning us toward our long-term target of $150 million."

“Due to significant growth in digital subscription revenue along with solid performance at Amplified Digital®, digital revenue finished the quarter representing 48% of total operating revenue. Achieving the digital inflection point, where more than 50% of our revenue is digital, is a key milestone in our digital transformation. We anticipate reaching that inflection point next quarter," Mowbray added.

"The rapid growth of our digital subscriptions and revenue, the expansion of Amplified Digital® marketing solutions, and thoughtful investments into our digital infrastructure are proof we are steadily becoming sustainable solely from the revenue and cash flow generated from our digital products," said Mowbray.

Key Second Quarter Highlights:

  • Total operating revenue was $147 million. Operating revenue was affected by accelerated declines of our print revenue streams and eliminated certain print products, partially offset by growth in digital revenue.
  • Total Digital Revenue was $71 million, an 11% increase over the prior year(2), and represented 48% of our total operating revenue.
  • Revenue from digital-only subscribers totaled $20 million, up 48% over the prior year(2).
  • Digital advertising and marketing services revenue represented 71% of our total advertising revenue and totaled $45 million.
  • Digital services revenue, which is predominantly from BLOX Digital, totaled $5 million in the quarter.
  • Operating expenses totaled $152 million and Cash Costs(1) totaled $133 million, a 10% and 16% decrease compared to the prior year, respectively.
  • Adjusted EBITDA totaled $15 million, a 5% increase over the prior year.

2024 Fiscal Year Outlook (unchanged):

Total Digital Revenue$310 million (+13% YOY) - $330 million (+21% YOY)
Digital-only subscribers771,000 (+7% YOY)
Adjusted EBITDA$83 million (-3% YOY) - $90 million (+6% YOY)

Debt and Free Cash Flow:

The Company has $454 million of debt outstanding under our Credit Agreement(5) with BH Finance. The financing has favorable terms including a 25-year maturity, a fixed annual interest rate of 9.0%, no fixed principal payments, and no financial performance covenants.

As of and for the period ended March 24, 2024:

  • The principal amount of debt decreased $2 million in the first six months and totaled $454 million.
  • Cash on the balance sheet totaled $16 million. Debt, net of cash on the balance sheet, totaled $438 million.
  • Capital expenditures totaled $2 million for the quarter and $3 million in the first six months. We expect $10 million of capital expenditures in FY24.
  • We expect cash paid for income taxes to total between $9 million and $14 million in 2024.
  • We do not expect any material pension contributions in the fiscal year as our plans are fully funded in the aggregate.

Conference Call Information:

As previously announced, we will hold an earnings conference call and audio webcast today at 9 a.m. Central Time. The live webcast will be accessible at www.lee.net and will be available for replay 24 hours later. Analysts have been invited to ask questions on the call. Questions from other participants may be submitted by participating in the webcast. To participate in the live conference call via telephone, please register here. Upon registering, a dial-in number and unique PIN will be provided to join the conference call.

About Lee:

Lee Enterprises is a major subscription and advertising platform and a leading provider of local news and information, with daily newspapers, rapidly growing digital products and nearly 350 weekly and specialty publications serving 73 markets in 26 states. Lee's markets include St. Louis, MO; Buffalo, NY; Omaha, NE; Richmond, VA; Lincoln, NE; Madison, WI; Davenport, IA; and Tucson, AZ. Lee Common Stock is traded on NASDAQ under the symbol LEE. For more information about Lee, please visit www.lee.net.

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS — The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides a “safe harbor” for forward-looking statements. This release contains information that may be deemed forward-looking that is based largely on our current expectations, and is subject to certain risks, trends and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated. Among such risks, trends and other uncertainties, which in some instances are beyond our control, are:

  • We may be required to indemnify the previous owners of BH Media or The Buffalo News for unknown legal and other matters that may arise;
  • Our ability to manage declining print revenue and circulation subscribers;
  • The impact and duration of adverse conditions in certain aspects of the economy affecting our business;
  • Changes in advertising and subscription demand;
  • Changes in technology that impact our ability to deliver digital advertising;
  • Potential changes in newsprint, other commodities and energy costs;
  • Interest rates;
  • Labor costs;
  • Significant cyber security breaches or failure of our information technology systems;
  • Our ability to achieve planned expense reductions and realize the expected benefit of our acquisitions;
  • Our ability to maintain employee and customer relationships;
  • Our ability to manage increased capital costs;
  • Our ability to maintain our listing status on NASDAQ;
  • Competition; and
  • Other risks detailed from time to time in our publicly filed documents.

Any statements that are not statements of historical fact (including statements containing the words “may”, “will”, “would”, “could”, “believes”, “expects”, “anticipates”, “intends”, “plans”, “projects”, “considers” and similar expressions) generally should be considered forward-looking statements. Statements regarding our plans, strategies, prospects and expectations regarding our business and industry and our responses thereto may have on our future operations, are forward-looking statements. They reflect our expectations, are not guarantees of performance and speak only as of the date the statement is made. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements, which are made as of the date of this report. We do not undertake to publicly update or revise our forward-looking statements, except as required by law.

(563) 383-2100



 Three months endedSix months ended
(Thousands of Dollars, Except Per Common Share Data)March 24,
 March 26,
 March 24,
 March 26,
Operating revenue:    
Print advertising revenue18,742 31,450 43,177 73,286 
Digital advertising revenue45,392 46,250 91,844 93,999 
Advertising and marketing services revenue64,134 77,700 135,021 167,285 
Print subscription revenue48,966 64,586 100,838 131,956 
Digital subscription revenue20,261 13,996 39,728 26,325 
Subscription revenue69,227 78,582 140,566 158,281 
Print other revenue8,069 9,649 16,561 20,769 
Digital other revenue5,120 4,756 10,080 9,483 
Other revenue13,189 14,405 26,641 30,252 
Total operating revenue146,550 170,687 302,228 355,818 
Operating expenses:    
Compensation56,803 68,831 116,479 144,277 
Newsprint and ink4,162 6,466 9,005 13,898 
Other operating expenses72,294 82,569 147,070 169,343 
Depreciation and amortization7,293 7,733 14,588 15,619 
Assets loss (gain) on sales, impairments and other, net7,617 (792)6,148 (3,355)
Restructuring costs and other4,139 3,694 8,404 4,340 
Total operating expenses152,308 168,501 301,694 344,122 
Equity in earnings of associated companies1,206 672 2,747 2,340 
Operating (loss) income(4,552)2,858 3,281 14,036 
Non-operating (expense) income:    
Interest expense(10,214)(10,501)(20,345)(20,909)
Pension and OPEB related benefit and other, net293 206 479 1,700 
Curtailment/Settlement gains  3,593  
Total non-operating expense, net(9,921)(10,295)(16,273)(19,209)
Loss before income taxes(14,473)(7,437)(12,992)(5,173)
Income tax benefit(2,837)(2,071)(2,589)(1,631)
Net loss(11,636)(5,366)(10,403)(3,542)
Net income attributable to non-controlling interests(543)(519)(1,088)(1,244)
Loss attributable to Lee Enterprises, Incorporated(12,179)(5,885)(11,491)(4,786)
Loss per common share:    



 Three months endedSix months ended
(Thousands of Dollars)March 24,
March 26,
March 24,
March 26,
Digital Advertising and Marketing Services Revenue45,39246,25091,84493,999
Digital Only Subscription Revenue20,26113,99639,72826,325
Digital Services Revenue5,1204,75610,0809,483
Total Digital Revenue70,77365,002141,652129,807
Print Advertising Revenue18,74231,45043,17773,286
Print Subscription Revenue48,96664,586100,838131,956
Other Print Revenue8,0699,64916,56120,769
Total Print Revenue75,777105,685160,576226,011
Total Operating Revenue146,550170,687302,228355,818



The table below reconciles the non-GAAP financial performance measure of Adjusted EBITDA to Net loss, its most directly comparable U.S. GAAP measure:

 Three months endedSix months ended
(Thousands of Dollars)March 24,
 March 26,
 March 24,
 March 26,
Net loss(11,636)(5,366)(10,403)(3,542)
Adjusted to exclude    
Income tax benefit(2,837)(2,071)(2,589)(1,631)
Non-operating expenses, net9,921 10,295 16,273 19,209 
Equity in earnings of TNI and MNI(1,206)(672)(2,747)(2,340)
Depreciation and amortization7,293 7,733 14,588 15,619 
Restructuring costs and other4,139 3,694 8,404 4,340 
Assets loss (gain) on sales, impairment and other, net7,617 (792)6,148 (3,355)
Stock compensation501 573 715 922 
Ownership share of TNI(6)and MNI EBITDA(6)(50%)1,269 930 3,321 2,722 
Adjusted EBITDA15,061 14,324 33,710 31,944 

The table below reconciles the non-GAAP financial performance measure of Cash Costs to Operating expenses, the most directly comparable U.S. GAAP measure:

 Three months endedSix months ended
(Thousands of Dollars)March 24,
March 26,
March 24,
March 26,
Operating expenses152,308168,501 301,694344,122 
Depreciation and amortization7,2937,733 14,58815,619 
Assets loss (gain) on sales, impairments and other, net7,617(792)6,148(3,355)
Restructuring costs and other4,1393,694 8,4044,340 
Cash Costs133,259157,866 272,554327,518 

The table below reconciles the non-GAAP financial performance measure of Same-store Revenues to Operating Revenues, its most directly comparable U.S. GAAP measure:

 Three months endedSix months ended
(Thousands of Dollars)March 24,
March 26,
 March 24,
 March 26,
Print Advertising Revenue18,74231,450 43,177 73,286 
Exited operations(4,812)(77)(13,032)
Same-store, Print Advertising Revenue18,74226,638 43,100 60,254 
Digital Advertising Revenue45,39246,250 91,844 93,999 
Exited operations(779)(91)(1,631)
Same-store, Digital Advertising Revenue45,39245,471 91,753 92,368 
Total Advertising Revenue64,13477,700 135,021 167,285 
Exited operations(5,592)(168)(14,663)
Same-store, Total Advertising Revenue64,13472,108 134,853 152,622 
Print Subscription Revenue48,96664,586 100,838 131,956 
Exited operations(578)(174)(1,260)
Same-store, Print Subscription Revenue48,96664,008 100,664 130,696 
Digital Subscription Revenue20,26113,996 39,728 26,325 
Exited operations11(259)(85)(495)
Same-store, Digital Subscription Revenue20,27213,737 39,643 25,830 
Total Subscription Revenue69,22778,582 140,566 158,281 
Exited operations11(837)(259)(1,755)
Same-store, Total Subscription Revenue69,23877,745 140,307 156,526 
Print Other Revenue8,0699,649 16,561 20,769 
Exited operations(95)(1)(216)
Same-store, Print Other Revenue8,0699,554 16,560 20,553 
Digital Other Revenue5,1204,756 10,080 9,483 
Exited operations   
Same-store, Digital Other Revenue5,1204,756 10,080 9,483 
Total Other Revenue13,18914,405 26,641 30,252 
Exited operations(95)(1)(217)
Same-store, Total Other Revenue13,18914,310 26,640 30,035 
Total Operating Revenue146,550170,687 302,228 355,818 
Exited operations11(6,524)(427)(16,635)
Same-store, Total Operating Revenue146,561164,163 301,801 339,183 


(1) The following are non-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) financial measures for which reconciliations to relevant U.S GAAP measures are included in tables accompanying this release:

  • Adjusted EBITDA is a non-GAAP financial performance measure that enhances financial statement users overall understanding of the operating performance of the Company. The measure isolates unusual, infrequent or non-cash transactions from the operating performance of the business. This allows users to easily compare operating performance among various fiscal periods and how management measures the performance of the business. This measure also provides users with a benchmark that can be used when forecasting future operating performance of the Company that excludes unusual, nonrecurring or one-time transactions. Adjusted EBITDA is a component of the calculation used by stockholders and analysts to determine the value of our business when using the market approach, which applies a market multiple to financial metrics. It is also a measure used to calculate the leverage ratio of the Company, which is a key financial ratio monitored and used by the Company and its investors. Adjusted EBITDA is defined as net income (loss), plus non-operating expenses, income tax expense, depreciation and amortization, assets loss (gain) on sales, impairments and other, restructuring costs and other, stock compensation and our 50% share of EBITDA from TNI and MNI, minus equity in earnings of TNI and MNI.
  • Cash Costs represent a non-GAAP financial performance measure of operating expenses which are measured on an accrual basis and settled in cash. This measure is useful to investors in understanding the components of the Company’s cash-settled operating costs. Periodically, the Company provides forward-looking guidance of Cash Costs, which can be used by financial statement users to assess the Company's ability to manage and control its operating cost structure. Cash Costs are defined as compensation, newsprint and ink and other operating expenses. Depreciation and amortization, assets loss (gain) on sales, impairments and other, other non-cash operating expenses and other expenses are excluded. Cash Costs also exclude restructuring costs and other, which are typically paid in cash.

(2) Same-store revenues is a non-GAAP performance measure based on U.S. GAAP revenues for Lee for the current period, excluding exited operations. Exited operations include (1) business divestitures and (2) the elimination of stand-alone print products discontinued within our markets.

(3) Total Digital Revenue is defined as digital advertising and marketing services revenue (including Amplified Digital®), digital-only subscription revenue and digital services revenue.

(4) This earnings release is a preliminary report of results for the periods included. The reader should refer to the Company's most recent reports on Form 10-Q and on Form 10-K for definitive information.

(5) The Company's debt is the $576 million term loan under a credit agreement with BH Finance LLC dated January 29, 2020 (the "Credit Agreement"). Excess Cash Flow is defined under the Credit Agreement as any cash greater than $20,000,000 on the balance sheet in accordance with U.S. GAAP at the end of each fiscal quarter, beginning with the quarter ending June 28, 2020.

(6) TNI refers to TNI Partners publishing operations in Tucson, AZ. MNI refers to Madison Newspapers, Inc. publishing operations in Madison, WI.