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Torstar profit jumps, uncertainties remain for media unit

Tags: Torstar
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Publisher Torstar Corp. (TS.B-T) posted a fourth-quarter profit that beat expectations, as cost cuts offset weak print advertising revenue, but said revenue outlook for the media unit remains uncertain for the year.

The publisher of the Toronto Star, Canada's biggest daily, said print advertising continues to be challenged by economic uncertainty and shifts in spending by advertisers.

Torstar -- which also owns daily and community newspapers, the Workopolis website and publishes romance novels under the Harlequin banner -- is investing in digital initiatives amid a bleak print advertising market.

The company, which has seen Harlequin grow by 6 percent in 2011, said it is likely to be tough to achieve a similar level of earnings this year at Harlequin, given the economic crisis in Europe and an increase in the royalty rates on digital sales.

However, digital revenue growth is expected to continue this year, the company said in a statement.

For the October-December quarter, net income attributable to shareholders rose to $64.3 million, or 81 cents a share, from $36.3 million, or 45 cents a share, a year ago.

On an adjusted basis, Torstar earned 70 cents a share, topping analysts' average expectation of 55 cents a share.

Revenue rose 2 percent to $425.3 million, below analysts' average expectation of $440.3 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company has sought to trim its editorial workforce by offering voluntary buyouts, while journalists at the Star have said the company also plans to outsource layout and editing jobs.

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