Torstar Takes Massive Quarterly Loss

CBJ — Torstar’s first-quarter loss soared to $53.5-million as the company recorded extra expenses related to its transition towards more digital media and revenue fell at its traditional newspaper businesses.

The publisher of the Toronto Star, other newspapers and numerous websites saw total operating revenue drop by 13.5% to $156.7-million from $181.2-million a year earlier.

Torstar’s relatively small digital ventures segment did see revenue nearly double to $15.9-million, but the improvement wasn’t able to completely offset the revenue decline from its two newspaper divisions.

The company’s first quarter net loss amounted to 66 cents per share and compared with a year-earlier loss of $3.9-million or five cents per share, including $3.5-million from discontinued operations.

The latest loss included $27.6-million of non-cash expense items related to Torstar’s investment in VerticalScope and $22.4-million in expenses related to a previously announced plan to close its Vaughan printing plant and contract out the work.

Torstar said the main reason for its increased digital revenue was its 56% investment in VerticalScope, which acquires and manages specialty websites.

The company also added digital revenue from its Toronto Star Touch application for tablet computers but didn’t disclose how much it generated. Torstar did say it invested $5.1-million in Star Touch during the quarter, including marketing costs, and expects to spend about the same over the remainder of 2016.

The latest poor results will do little to curb rampant speculation and rumours that Canada’s largest newspaper may one day be available solely online.  Based on the current rate of decline in hard-copy newspaper advertising revenue there are some who believe the timeline could be within the next five years.