An Analysis of Journal Communications

Journal Communications (JRN) is comprised of seven essentially independent companies: The Milwaukee Sentinel, Group Newspapers, Television Stations, Radio Stations, Telecommunications, Printing Companies, and Direct Advertising. The company’s 5 reportable segments do not precisely match these 7 businesses nonetheless, I believe an investor must assess JRN on the foundation of these seven businesses and their constituent houses, instead than as a single likely issue with 5 reportable organization segments. Extra factors for this belief will be outlined under. For now, it is adequate to say that if Journal Communications had been to divide into 7 separate public firms, the merged industry worth of people firms would be substantially greater than JRN’s current organization price. Simply place, the sum of the parts would be valued much more highly than the total.

Journal Communications has an enterprise value of just beneath $1 billion. Pre-tax owner’s earnings are almost certainly about $one hundred twenty five million. So, JRN trades at eight occasions pre-tax owner’s earnings. That is cheap.

Journal’s successful tax price is 40%. That is an unusually higher fee. Journal’s media properties would likely create far more following-tax earnings under different ownership. The big difference would be material but, for any individual other than a highly leveraged consumer, tax savings would not be a principal consideration. When assessing Journal as a going concern, it is completely suitable to treat the entire 40% tax stress as a fact. These taxes reduce owner’s earnings by $fifty million.

With soon after-tax owner’s earnings of $seventy five million and an business value of $1 billion, Journal’s owner’s earnings generate is seven.five%. Keep in mind, this is the soon after-tax yield. The pre-tax generate is 12.five%. When evaluating a company, it really is best to use the pre-tax produce for reasons of comparison. Final I checked, the 30 – 12 months Treasury bond was yielding four.63%. So, seeking at JRN’s existing earnings by itself, the stock seems to offer a big margin of protection.

This is especially true if you take into account the reality that earnings yields offer you much more security in opposition to inflation than bond yields. They don’t offer you excellent defense. But, with stocks, there is at the very least the likelihood that nominal funds flows will enhance together with inflation. The cash flows created by bonds are mounted in nominal phrases, and for that reason provide no protection towards inflation.

When evaluating a extended-expression investment decision, these kinds of as a inventory, I do not use a price cut fee of significantly less than eight%. This lowers JRN’s margin of security significantly. As an alternative of getting the difference in between 12.five% and four.sixty three%, Journal’s margin of protection is the variation between twelve.five% and 8%. Is this kind of a margin of safety enough? Perhaps.

When assessing a potential investment decision, I initial seem at the danger of a catastrophic loss. What is the magnitude? And what is the probability? For my functions, a catastrophic reduction is outlined as any permanent loss of principal. The risk that I’ve overvalued a organization is usually better than my danger of catastrophic decline, simply because I insist upon a margin of protection. A catastrophic reduction is 1 that wipes out the total margin of safety.

I can make a negative investment with no suffering a catastrophic reduction. For occasion, most mutual funds are poor investments, due to the fact they underperform alternatives. Nevertheless, mutual cash do not usually have a substantial threat of catastrophic loss. In fact, they normally have a minimal chance of catastrophic decline, simply because they are extremely correlated to the all round industry.

It truly is easiest to recognize this idea if you feel of valuing firms as becoming a lot like composing insurance coverage. Even if reality exceeds your anticipations in nine out of each and every 10 circumstances, a awful misjudgment in the tenth circumstance can cause you wonderful damage. It isn’t really just how many error you make. It is also how big they are.

Some stocks, like Google (GOOG), trade at rates that enable for catastrophic losses of appreciable magnitude. Other stocks, like Journal Communications, trade at costs that only permit for quite little losses to principal. Nevertheless, there is also the make a difference of probability. How most likely is it that a Google shareholder will experience a catastrophic loss? I will not know. I’m not even inclined to hazard a guess.

In the situation of Journal Communications, I am inclined to adhere my neck out.

I think an investment in JRN carries a extremely low danger to principal – substantially considerably less than, say, an expenditure in the S&P 500. Why? Simply because Journal Communications is investing at a extremely modest owner’s earnings multiple. But, that isn’t the only cause. You should not search at Journal exclusively from a heading worry standpoint. JRN mainly is made up of readily saleable qualities. The assets backing shares JRN are very considerable:


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee’s only significant everyday and Sunday newspaper. The Sunday edition has the maximum penetration rate (seventy two%) of any Sunday newspaper in the prime fifty U.S. markets. The every day version has the 3rd greatest penetration charge (forty nine%) of any every day newspaper in the top 50 U.S. markets. The paper has a daily circulation of 240,000 and a Sunday circulation of 425,000.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also operates 3 websites. and generate advertising income. is a membership – based site.

Above the very last three several years, the two everyday circulation and Sunday circulation have reduced by about one% each year. Full run marketing linage has also fallen by a equivalent sum even so, soon after accounting for will increase in component operate promoting and preprint items, it appears there has been no actual lower in total promoting.

The Journal Sentinel generates about $230 million in revenue. Advertising accounts for 80% of the Journal Sentinel’s earnings (the other 20% is circulation profits). Marketing profits is considerably cyclical, and may possibly presently be earlier mentioned “regular” stages.

It truly is tough to benefit the Journal Sentinel, simply because JRN locations the Journal Sentinel and its group newspapers below one particular reportable phase. Even if the quantities for the Journal Sentinel have been damaged out, I would have nevertheless have some issues coming up with an specific figure, due to the fact I’m not an skilled on newspapers.

Getting mentioned that, I cannot see how the Journal Sentinel could be worth significantly less than $250 million or much more than $500 million. If I had to put a greenback determine on the Journal Sentinel, it would almost certainly be in the 250 – $300 million range. I’d like to consider this is a conservative estimate, but I never know sufficient about newspapers to be confident. JRN’s failure to break out the figures for the Journal Sentinel aside from the community newspapers complicates the concern. However, I am very assured the Journal Sentinel is worth no less than $250 million.

It really is even far more hard to price JRN’s Journal Group Publishing Group. It is composed of forty three local community newspapers, forty one buyers, and 9 market publications (automotive, boating, and many others.). The team generates about $100 million in earnings. I can’t price this team aside from the Journal Sentinel, due to the fact of the aforementioned deficiency of disclosure (combining the group with the Journal Sentinel for reporting needs), my lack of ability to find ample general public data on neighborhood newspaper businesses, and other this sort of variables.

The ideal I can do is provide an educated guess as to the blended value of JRN’s publishing enterprise. My ideal guess is that, taken together, the Journal Sentinel and the neighborhood newspapers are almost certainly really worth someplace in between $300 million and $500 million.


Journal Communications owns 38 radio stations. The most critical of which are: WTMJ-AM Milwaukee, KMXZ-FM Tucson, KFDI-FM Wichita, and KTTS – FM Springfield (MO). All 4 of these stations are variety one particular in their marketplace. JRN’s radio stations produce about $eighty million in income.

Journal Communications owns seven television stations. Practically all of these stations are rated as a single of the best three in their market place. 3 are NBC affiliates, 3 are ABC affiliates, and a single is a Fox affiliate. JRN owns two stations in Milwaukee, two in Idaho, one particular in California, one particular in Michigan, and one in Nevada. Journal’s Television set stations make about $ninety million in earnings.

Yet again, it really is way too tough for me to value JRN’s Television set stations and radio stations independently. Taken collectively, I think they are really worth somewhere between $250 and $450 million.


JRN owns a three,800 mile community in the Excellent Lakes region. Norlight Telecommunications generates about $a hundred and fifty million in profits. I am extremely hesitant to make any attempts to price this division, because I will not realize the telecom business well enough. Having mentioned that, I do not see how it could be worth considerably significantly less than $350 million.


I never like the printing companies and direct advertising organization at all. I have no thought how to price them. They do have revenues even though so, they are possibly really worth something to an individual. Revenues from these two businesses exceed $100 million, but they are not extremely lucrative.

Real Estate

JRN owns a astonishing sum of unencumbered genuine estate. For the most element, these kinds of properties are intently tied to one particular of JRN’s functioning organizations. As lengthy as JRN continues as a likely issue, significantly of the true estate could not be marketed. Just to give you some concept of the extent of these qualities, it appears JRN owns a little significantly less than two million square toes – a lot of which is in or around Milwaukee. I can not precisely value such actual estate. As I said, significantly of it is closely tied to running actions. Nonetheless, structures in urban areas can sometimes be converted to other employs.

It barely matters although. Journal Communications is very likely to continue to be a going issue for some time, and as extended as it does, it is not likely to dispose of this sort of assets.


So, what is JRN value? It truly is challenging to say. The existing business benefit is around $one billion, which is obviously way too minimal. My most conservative estimates for the publishing, broadcasting, and telecom companies by itself incorporate up to $900 million. I feel those are extremely conservative estimates. Employing much more reasonable estimates, I can not arrive at a worth of considerably less than $1.twenty five billion for JRN’s constituent components. This is real regardless of whether I carry out an intrinsic benefit investigation on the total business, or apply some sort of earnings, revenue, or EBITDA a number of to each enterprise separately.

Journal Communications is most likely well worth someplace in between $one.25 billion and $2 billion. I am very pessimistic about the newspaper company consequently, I would lean toward the $1.25 billion determine (which assumes a bit declining revenues). Any sort of revenue expansion would drastically change the valuation. If this sort of progress will happen, JRN is very undervalued at these stages. Nevertheless, I’m not certain there will be any progress at all.

Journal Communications voting composition will probably discourage the very best training course of motion: breaking up the company. JRN must spin off the community newspapers, the Tv set stations, the radio stations, and the telecom enterprise. The printing services and immediate advertising companies need to also be disposed of in some way. These are actually really distinct organizations. There are number of very good motives for retaining them together, and numerous good reasons for separating them.

Newspapers, radio, and Television all confront different difficulties. They require diverse managers who have full control above cash allocation and who are compensated based on the functionality of their company, not on the functionality of a hodge-podge of a variety of media properties. general blog Breaking JRN up will make it easier to control and will make it less difficult for current house owners to dispose of their shares at much more favorable charges need to they wish to.

If these firms traded as five or six diverse community organizations, it is really not likely their blended market cap would be much less than $one billion. It could not even be required for them to be publicly traded. There may possibly be customers for this sort of properties, if JRN’s properties ended up separated into typical feeling collections.

But, none of this is most likely to occur. Employees control JRN (they keep management via the ownership of shares with disproportionate voting legal rights). No one interested in shaking items up will take a stake in this organization, because he would be not able to impose his will. I can not envision administration ever embarking on these kinds of a sweeping enterprise without some prodding from the outside.

JRN has almost no downside. Regrettably, it doesn’t appear to have a lot of upside both. There is a actual hazard traders will see their returns wither away as the time it requires to comprehend the benefit in Journal Communications proves expensive. Time is the enemy of the trader who buys this kind of organization at this variety of cost.

Objectively, I have to admit JRN is undervalued. But, I am not certain it is grossly undervalued – and I am confident there are better lengthy time period investments.