Slow News Day at Dow Jones

Dow Jones (NYSE: DJ  ) technically reported an increase in third-quarter profit, but there's more to that story than meets the eye. Despite being a strong company, it still functions in a troubled industry -- a fact that's apparent in its third-quarter results.

A 57% increase in third-quarter earnings to $0.16 million, or $0.19 per share, does sound good. However, that figure includes a sizeable tax gain of $7.9 million. Excluding the tax benefit, earnings fell 8.3% to $0.11 per share. Revenues increased 3.9% to $412.4 million.

The results beat the consensus estimate, which anticipated $0.10 per share, although they fell short on the top line, since analysts were looking for sales of $442.8 million. And of course, bear in mind that last month Dow Jones warned about its third quarter, thanks to a tough advertising environment in September.

Indeed, ad revenue for The Wall Street Journal inched up only 0.3%, and ad volume was at 1.1%. Barron's fared better, with ad revenue up 22.8%.

Dow Jones has been working on strategy, and now is no different. It said that it will purchase the remaining interest in information database Factiva from Reuters (Nasdaq: RTRSY  ) , and that it does have buyers interested in local papers it previously said it was looking to sell.

Sluggish sales are nothing new for this struggling industry, where many rival companies like New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) and Gannett (NYSE: GCI  ) have had similar difficulties as advertising shifts to the Internet. And this week should give more information on this front -- New York Times, Tribune (NYSE: TRB  ) , and Belo (NYSE: BLC  ) are all set to report earnings Thursday.

As I've said before, Dow Jones is one of my favorite names in newspapers, mainly because of its focus on business news and information, its national profile, and its merging of online and offline properties. On the other hand, its stock is also among the most expensive -- a P/E of 20 is higher than most of its industry peers (excepting Tribune, which trades for a higher P/E) and certainly reflects its leadership qualities, but it also leaves plenty of room for disappointment. I still say investors should wait for a better bargain before considering Dow Jones.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that can be found on print and paper.


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