Why I Sold This Winner

I sold my shares of New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) a week too soon. The stock reached a 52-week high of $11.05 on Friday, after the newspaper company reported better-than-expected third-quarter results the day before.

That sounds better than it really is. "Better than expected" has taken on new meaning during the Great Recession – it's truly closer to "not nearly as abysmal as we thought it was going to be" than "better than the good results we were hoping for."

At New York Times, revenue declined by 17% to $570.6 million, while per-share net loss narrowed to $0.25 from $0.74 in last year's Q3. Non-GAAP income more than tripled to $0.16 per share. Total advertising revenue fell nearly 30%.

The Times' not-quite-awful results were aided by deep cost cuts, as operating expenses declined by 22%. Earlier reports from Gannett (NYSE: GCI  ) and McClatchy (NYSE: MNI  ) show the Times' peers following a similar pattern, and enjoying similarly surging share prices since January:

Company

CAPS Stars (out of 5)

YTD Gain

Gannett

**

53.4%

McClatchy

*

305%

New York Times

*

36.3%

Source: Google Finance.
Data current as of Oct. 23.

So why sell New York Times now? Because my thesis for investing was predicated on success in the digital realm, an opportunity created not only by the Web, but also a flood of new e-readers from Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS  ) , among others.

New York Times has yet to see any digital windfall, yet my shares were up more than 50% in three months. The price got ahead of value, and I decided to sell.

In starker mathematical terms: At today's prices, New York Times trades for more than 30 times next year's earnings, far too expensive for a company operating in an industry that has yet to prove it can turn itself around.

But that's also just my take. What do you think? Are newspaper companies such as New York Times worth buying at today's prices? Will new digital technologies such as e-readers create enough growth to justify the heady valuations? Please take a moment to vote in the poll below, and then leave a comment explaining your rationale.

Amazon.com and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Isn't it time you treated yourself to the Fool's disclosure policy?


Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 27, 2009, at 11:36 AM, MrZoSo wrote:

    I am very curious as to why digital media has been blitzing for print media to be gone and buried? The NY Times is more than just a news paper. It's (newspapers) a staple of life that is going to take a good 30 years before it's weeded out completely. I have no clue investment wise what the future will hold, and neither do any of the fools trying to destroy the print media. Forecasting it's death is not exactly Kreskin-esq, never the less, a bit premature in my opinion.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1019232, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 12/17/2014 4:28:59 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement