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May 3, 2017

TorStar reports bigger-than-expected loss, print advertising revenue falls 19% in Q1

Torstar's new CEO ready to refresh digital strategy

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Canadian newspaper publisher Torstar Corp (TSb.TO) on Wednesday reported a bigger-than-expected loss, sending its shares to a record low, as growth in some of its digital ventures failed to offset a decline in print advertising.

Shares of the company fell as much as 22.3 per cent to $1.29 in morning trading, after the publisher of the Toronto Star and a string of other titles also said it cut 110 jobs during the quarter to curb spending.

Torstar, like many other publishers, has struggled to offset the steady defection of advertisers from newspapers to social media and search websites such as Google.

Torstar said print advertising revenue fell 19 per cent in the first quarter ended March 31.

Revenue from digital ventures dipped four per cent, but Torstar said digital revenue growth was "strong" in its majority-owned VerticalScope unit, and also benefited from advertising on community websites at its Metroland business.

Torstar said expenses related to salaries fell 15 per cent, while other operating costs declined nearly nine per cent, indicating that its cost-cutting efforts were paying off.

Cost reduction would remain an "important area of focus" for the rest of the year, the company said.

Torstar said net loss attributable to shareholders narrowed to $24.4 million, or 30 cents per share, from $53.5 million, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier.

Restructuring and other charges were $4.9 million in the quarter, compared with $31.8 million a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company lost 22 cents per share, missing analysts' average estimate of 13 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue fell 11.5 per cent to $138.6 million.