New York Times Co. shares soar on earnings beat as digital subscriptions surge

Key Points
  • The New York Times Co. beats earnings with burgeoning digital subscriptions.
  • The company's stock skyrocketed in 2017.
  • President Trump continues to describe the Times as a "failing" newspaper.
The New York Times building
Jonathan Torgovnik | Getty Images

The New York Times Co. on Thursday reported fourth-quarter earnings and revenues that blew past expectations, bolstered by significant gains in digital subscriptions.

The company's stock, which was frozen until the market opened Thursday morning, shot up more than 11 percent, hitting the highest level in more than a decade. Shares of the owner of what President Donald Trump continues to call a "failing" newspaper, have climbed about 20 percent this year. The last time it was trading at the current level of about $24.60 was in July 2007, according to FactSet.

Despite suffering from the industry-wide struggle to successfully maintain advertising revenues in the internet age, the media company posted a 10.1 percent boost in total revenues from the year-earlier quarter to $484.1 million. That far surpassed estimates of $467.3 million in a Thomson Reuters analyst survey. The company reported adjusted earnings of 39 cents per share versus 29 cents expected in the Thomson Reuters survey.

Much of that upward trajectory stemmed from a sharp increase in subscription revenues year over year. Digital-only subscription revenue increased 51.2 percent in the fourth quarter from the prior year. Overall subscription revenues increased 19.2 percent over the same period.

The company reported an increase of 157,000 digital subscriptions from the end of the third quarter of 2017, mainly made up of news subscriptions but including some cooking and crossword subscriptions.

The Times also expects earnings for the first quarter of 2018 to yield a boost in subscription revenues in the mid-to-high single digits, but said advertising revenues will decline by the same rate.

While digital advertising revenues increased 8.5 percent in the fourth quarter, the more lucrative advertising revenues fell 1.3 percent overall. Print advertising revenue retreated a full 8.4 percent.

CEO Mark Thompson said the Times "saw continued challenges in print advertising, though our rate of decline moderated somewhat in the late part of 2017."

"Advertising now represents just one-third of our total company revenues," he said.

The Times also posted a $68.7 million charge related to the passage of a tax overhaul law that began to take effect in 2018.

Even as Trump attacks media outlets as "the enemy of the American people," they appear to benefit from the eye-popping headlines he and his administration have produced.

As of Wednesday's close, shares of the Times have surged more than 51 percent in the past 12 months.