Friday, January 11, 2008

Metro to sell U.S. papers; Examiner may bid

Metro International is putting its three U.S. papers on the market, and among the interested suitors is the Examiner chain, according to The Phoenix, a Boston alt-weekly. The Examiner has free dailies in San Francisco, Washington and Baltimore.

Metro's decision to sell isn't a surprise. Since taking over as Metro's chief executive, Per Mikael Jensen (pictured) has been closing or selling the company's money-losing editions to get Metro back in the black.

Though it is publicly held, Metro does not break out financial information for individual papers. However a report in Crains New York quoted "insiders" as saying Metro New York has annual revenue of $14 million and losses of up to $500,000 a month. In October, Metro disclosed that sales in the third quarter were off 12 percent in Boston and 5 percent in Philadelphia compared to the same period in the previous year. New York was the only bright spot with a 18 percent jump. The fourth-quarter report is due February 8.

All of the Examiner papers are believed to be losing money too, though it probably is not a concern to owner Phil Anschutz, who is listed by Forbes Magazine as the nation's 41st richest person with a net worth estimated at $7.6 billion. His wealth comes from oil, real estate, railroads, movie theaters and a phone company.

The New York Times Co. owns a 49 percent stake in Boston Metro, and it is unknown at this point whether the Times, which has been liquidating its assets, would sell that non-controlling interest to a new buyer.