Lee posts $1.3 million loss in 4th quarter and fiscal year; huge debt continues to dog financial results

If only Lee Enterprises, owner of the Quad City Times and Dispatch/Argus, wasn't $538 million in debt.

It would have had $47 million more in income during the past fiscal year to invest back into its 77 newspapers and news web site markets.

And in the fourth quarter ended Sept. 27, the company would have had $12.4 million less in interest expenses, resulting in an $11.1-million profit rather than a $1.3 million loss.

But the media empire is indeed swimming in a sea of red that resulted primarily from the 2005 acquisition of the St. Louis Post-Gazette for $1.5 billion.

For investor and lender Warren Buffet, who sold his BH Media properties to Lee in March for $140 million and refinanced Lee's $435 million debt, his Bershire Hathaway is earning a solid return thanks to a credit-card-like interest of 9 percent on the resulting $576 million loan.

For investors in Lee stock, however, the high debt costs means the media company lost $1.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2020, and recorded a $1.3 million loss for the full fiscal year ended Sept. 27.

For the fourth quarter, the company lost 3 cents per share, compared with a 1 cent per share gain for the same period a year ago.

For the fiscal year, the company lost 5 cents per share, compared with a 26 cent per share gain for the previous fiscal year.

CLICK HERE to download Lee's fourth quarter financial report.

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