New York Times online unit earnings surpass expectations

The fourth quater earnings of New York Times Co. improved sharply, beating analysts’ estimates as digital subscribers grew by 53,000 and online ad revenue rose.

According to a statement by the company, profit excluding some items rose to 37 cents a share, beating the 30-cent average of analysts’ estimates. It also added 53,000 net digital subscribers, up from last quarter’s 51,000.

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The Times has focused on growing its digital audience as print readership continues to slump and total ad sales slide. Circulation makes up more than half of the company’s revenue, up from more than a third in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The company’s shares also climbed as much as 5.3 percent to $13.45 in New York, the biggest intraday gain in more than three months. They rose 2.2 percent to $13.05 at 10 a.m. The stock had fallen 4.8 percent this year through Wednesday.

Revenue of $444.7 million was little changed from a year earlier and compared with analysts’ estimates of $439.7 million.

Digital advertising revenue climbed 11 percent to $69.9 million. Ad revenue fell 1.3 percent in the quarter, dragged down by print ad sales that fell 6.6 percent. Operating expenses declined 7.7 percent.

The Times reported net income of $51.7 million, or 31 cents a share, compared with $34.9 million, or 22 cents, a year earlier.

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