Earnings Reports: Both Media General And NBC Universal Slammed; MG Suspends Pensions

Media General’s first quarter loss was worse than last year, and NBC Universal’s losses helped push parent company GE’s stock to the lowest point since 1991, the companies reported in their Q1 earning statements today.

NBC’s first quarter earnings fell 45%, far offsetting gains in GE’s other divisions. GE had warned that NBC could “be down a bit” in 2009, but analysts said that this report was worse than expected.

Meanwhile, the Richmond, Va.-based Media General, which owns hundreds of newspapers and 19 television stations, posted a loss of $21.3 million, compared to $20.3 million last quarter. Though the company was able to reduce its operating costs by 14 percent through layoffs and other measures, Media General also told investors it would freeze its pension plan as of May 31. It had already ceased accruals at the beginning of 2007 and closed the plan to new employees, but future retirement benefits will now be based on final earnings as of May 31 2009.

Revenue at the company’s newspapers fell 20 percent. Classified ad sales fell 39 percent. Revenue at its TV stations fell 19 percent, while online revenue rose 25 percent.