Courier Swings from Loss to Net Income of $1.6 Million on Sales of $59 MillionJuly 24, 2012
“Under our previously announced stock repurchase program, we purchased approximately 445,000 shares in the third quarter, for a total of $4.8 million. Since the start of the fiscal year, our strong cash flow has also enabled us to bring our debt down by $2.5 million. Given this performance and our solid financial condition, our Board of Directors has once again approved a regular quarterly dividend of $.21 per share. We head into our fourth quarter with every expectation of a strong close to the fiscal year in keeping with seasonal trends.”
Book manufacturing: adjusting to changes in seasonal textbook cycle
Courier’s book manufacturing segment had third-quarter sales of $52.4 million, down from $55.0 million for the same period last year. For fiscal 2012 to date, book manufacturing sales were $163.9 million, up slightly from $163.6 million in fiscal 2011.
As previously mentioned, the results for fiscal 2012 included restructuring costs for severance and post-retirement benefits, while last year’s second-quarter results included plant closing costs. Excluding these restructuring costs, the segment’s third-quarter operating income was $4.2 million, versus $5.1 million a year ago. On a year-to-date basis, operating income was $11.7 million, up 4 percent from $11.3 million for the first nine months of last year.
Gross profit for the first nine months of fiscal 2012, again excluding restructuring costs, was $32.1 million or 19.6 percent of sales, compared to $31.9 million or 19.5 percent of sales last year. The modest year-to-date improvement in gross profit margins, achieved despite a highly competitive pricing environment and reduced recycling income, reflects improved operating efficiencies created by last year’s technology investments and the further consolidation of the company’s one-color printing operations.
The book manufacturing segment focuses on three markets: education, religious, and specialty trade.
- Sales to the education market were down 12 percent in the quarter and down 3 percent for the year to date, with publishers managing inventories tightly and taking advantage of available capacity.
- Sales to the religious market were down 3 percent from fiscal 2011 in the third quarter; through the first nine months religious sales were even with last year, but sales to the company’s largest religious customer were up 2 percent.
- Sales to the specialty trade market were up 1 percent in the quarter and up 6 percent for the year to date, reflecting increased orders at Courier Digital Solutions and a return to more traditional ordering patterns as the marketplace continues to assimilate the loss of Borders.
“Our third quarter illustrated the continuing shift in the textbook market’s seasonal ordering cycle,” said Conway. “Between the uncertain economy and the budget crunch in state governments, many textbook publishers have chosen to reduce print quantities, time their orders closer to the start of the school year and, where appropriate, order separately for each semester. Fortunately, our efficient combination of digital and offset facilities has enabled us to respond effectively, and we are ready for the strong fourth quarter we foresee.
“While sales to the religious market were down modestly, we have often experienced sizable quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in that market, a situation compounded by this third quarter’s unusually early close on June 23. On a year-to-date basis, we remain even with last year in the religious market as a whole, and sales to our largest customer are up. Our customer relationships remain excellent in both the religious and education markets, and we look forward to long-term growth in both.”
Publishing: operating efficiencies help trim losses
Courier’s specialty publishing segment includes three businesses: Dover Publications, a niche publisher with thousands of titles in dozens of specialty trade markets; Creative Homeowner, which publishes books on home design, decorating, landscaping and gardening; and Research & Education Association (REA), a publisher of test preparation books and study guides.
Third-quarter revenues for the segment were $9.1 million, down 8 percent from $9.9 million in last year’s third quarter. The segment’s operating loss for the quarter was $975,000, compared to a loss of $1.2 million last year. For fiscal 2012 to date, segment sales were $28.2 million, versus $30.8 million for the first nine months of last year. The segment’s operating loss through nine months was $3.9 million, unchanged from last year.
Of Courier’s three publishing businesses, REA alone was profitable during the quarter, with sales up 2 percent from a year earlier despite the absence of Borders, which had been one of REA’s largest customers prior to the chain’s closing. At Dover, sales were off 2 percent but careful attention to costs enabled the business to trim its operating loss by more than 20 percent. Creative Homeowner, with sales down 31 percent in a challenging retail environment, lost $227,000.
Successes during the quarter included the beta-site launch of DoverPictura.com, Dover’s new online image store, the availability of a growing range of e-book titles on popular platforms and a very strong spring for REA’s Crash Course series and other AP test preparation titles.
“Our publishing segment continued to deal with channel challenges and a sluggish consumer economy,” said Conway. “Faced with this environment, we continued to take out costs wherever we could without compromising our ability to deliver top-drawer content such as Creative Homeowner’s Backyard Homesteading, which recently won a Gold Medal in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.
“At the same time, we continued to move forward on the digital front. DoverPictura beta-site customers can now browse through more than a hundred thousand compelling images, and readers everywhere can access a growing array of Dover, REA and Creative Homeowner titles in e-book form through our relationships with Apple, Amazon and Google, and our new agreement with Barnes & Noble.”
“We enter our busiest part of the year well equipped to take advantage of our opportunities within today’s challenging economic environment,” said Conway. “We continue to expand the range of services we provide for our largest customers, and we continue to attract new customers with our state-of-the-art digital inkjet capabilities. Our four-color digital and offset plants are running more efficiently than ever, thanks to years of steady investment in technology and a highly professional, customer-focused workforce. And our publishing businesses are adapting to a changing retail environment with exciting strategies coupled to the core content strengths our readers expect.
“We expect full-year capital expenditures to be between $8 million and $10 million, vs. $16 million in fiscal 2011. We also continue to benefit from the consolidation of one-color printing capacity and other cost-reduction measures taken over the last year in both of our business segments. And we look forward to a productive summer focused on meeting textbook publishers’ needs for standard and customized versions in a shortened timeframe.
“We expect fourth-quarter sales of between $80 million and $85 million, leading to total fiscal 2012 sales of between $264 million and $269 million, an increase over fiscal 2011 of between 2 percent and 4 percent (which includes the benefit of a 53-week year in fiscal 2012),” Conway concluded.
Courier Corp. prints, publishes and sells books. Headquartered in North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Courier has two operating segments, full-service book manufacturing and specialty book publishing.