Is it possible – there's a newspaper stock that's actually something to shout about?
Jim Cramer thinks that may be the case for Gannett, the owner of a slew of newspapers including USA Today.
"For years we have heard that print is a dying medium and newspapers are pretty much on life support. That's been the conventional wisdom, and for most publications and most newspaper companies," admitted Cramer.
Yet you'd never know that looking at the price action of Gannett - the stock is up 31% for the year, much better than the 12% gain in the S&P 500 over the same period.
So what the heck is going on?
Cramer said part of the strength involves the company's decision to embrace the Internet and digital media rather than fight it.
"The company now gets 26% of its revenues from digital activities, and in the latest quarter that digital segment grew at a fabulous 23% clip."
Also Gannett is not merely a pure play on print.
"The company also operates 23 local television stations in 19 U.S. markets, and they own Captivate, which is the aptly named news network that runs on TV screens in office building elevators," Cramer explained.
"TV accounts for more than 17% of Gannett's revenues, and this part of the business is absolutely on fire."
In addition, the company has strong management.
"Five years ago, when the economy was still in good shape before the onset of the recession, a lot of people were telling Gannett to borrow billions of dollars to pay a special dividend or a gigantic buyback. Instead, even though the credit markets were still very strong, the company chose to use its robust free cash flow to pay down its debt."
"That's how this newspaper company survived the financial crisis with an investment-grade credit rating. And Gannett has continued to clean up the balance sheet. Over the last three years, the company has reduced its debt by more than $2 billion."
And perhaps the creme de resistance is the company's strategy.
"The CEO wants to use their numerous local papers and digital platforms to become the local media play in America. I think this is a terrific strategy, and it's clearly working given that Gannett's most recent quarter, which is reported back in late October, came in much better than expected."
The strategy appears to be paying off.
"Rather than firing journalists to cut costs, Gannett's been focused on creating quality product to the point where management believes they now employ more journalists than any other newspaper company in the country."
All told, Cramer thinks the price action is justified and despite gains of more than 30% ytd, he believes the stock has room to run. "Gannett is absolutely worth buying."
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