BY HAWAII REPORTER
Last year was a profitable one for Black Press Ltd., the Canada-based owner of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, as it bought, sold and merged newspapers.
An earnings report filed by Torstar Corp., which owns almost one-fifth of Black Press, indicates the Victoria, British Columbia-based Black Press had an about $17 million profit excluding impairment charges during 2010. That compared with about $12.9 million of earnings in 2009.
Torstar reported its share of the Black Press’s 2010 earnings were $100,000 Canadian after an impairment loss of $3.1 million Canadian. It said the impairment loss was associated with a customer-related intangible asset and goodwill related to a printing operation.
The year was a busy one for Black Press, which publishes more than 100 weekly and daily newspapers and shoppers. It bought more than a dozen newspapers, at least four of which it closed.
The purchases included the Honolulu Advertiser, which Black merged with its Honolulu Star-Bulletin to create the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In the process it fired more than 450 people as CEO David Black combined the operations while hiking advertising rates and prices for commercial printing at his Kapolei press.
The results do not offer details about profits at Black’s media company, which operates newspapers in Western Canada, Ohio and Washington. In Hawaii Black owns Oahu Publications Inc., which publishes the newspaper, Midweek, three military newspapers and several glossy magazines.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser Publisher Dennis Francis was traveling on the Mainland and not available for comment on the newspaper’s profitability and operations.
But the Star-Advertiser may not have reached Black’s projections, at least when it comes to circulation. After the merger was completed last summer the newspaper reported it expected a circulation of 135,000 daily and 150,000 on Sundays.
In December the Star-Advertiser carried an article saying the merger had created an operation with 128,000 daily subscribers and 135,000 on Sundays.
The printing operation also lost customers, including Pacific Business News.
Black purchased the Honolulu Advertiser’s assets from Gannett Co. Inc., the largest U.S. newspaper chain. Gannett’s regulatory filings show the company received $106 million in sale proceeds from the disposition of the Honolulu Advertiser and a small directory company in Michigan.
The filings show Gannett recorded a $21.2 million gain on the sales.
The profit is an approximate estimate of earnings for Black, a private company that does not have to report its financial results. But Torstar reports its share of Black’s profits from which profit estimates can be computed and adjusted from Canadian to U.S. dollars.