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New York Times Co. cuts earnings outlook

NEW YORK -- The New York Times Co. told investors yesterday that its fourth-quarter and full-year earnings would miss Wall Street estimates on weaker-than-expected advertising in the fourth quarter and higher costs for promotion, printing, distribution, and newsprint.

The New York company also said it would begin expensing the cost of stock options and its employee stock-purchase plan. It said that it would no longer provide estimates for full-year earnings, focusing instead on quarterly estimates because of the greater uncertainty facing media firms.

The company, which also publishes The Boston Globe and The International Herald Tribune, said it now expects to report fourth-quarter earnings of 69 to 73 cents per share, compared with 73 cents in the comparable period a year ago.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had expected earnings of 75 cents per share.

For the full year, the company now expects to earn $1.90 to $1.93 per share, versus Thomson First Call estimates of $1.96 per share. Both the quarterly and full-year estimates exclude a one-time gain from the sale of the company's headquarters building of approximately 50 to 55 cents per share, of which 40 to 45 cents per share is likely to be recognized in the fourth quarter.

In 2005, the company will begin expensing its stock options, a move that has been advocated by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and Securities and Exchange Commission chairman William Donaldson.

The company said it expects to record pretax expenses for stock-based compensation of $24 million to $33 million in 2005, or 12 to 16 cents per share.

Chief financial officer Leonard Forman said while advertising revenues had shown ''modest" improvement in the fourth quarter compared with the same period a year ago, ''they have not been as strong as we had anticipated."

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