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Lee Enterprises to begin trading on Nasdaq

Lee Enterprises to begin trading on Nasdaq

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Kevin Mowbray president and chief executive officer of Lee Enterprises, speaks during the Lee Enterprises annual meeting Feb. 19, 2020, in Davenport.

Davenport-based Lee Enterprises announced Monday it intends to transfer its stock exchange listing from the New York Stock Exchange to the Nasdaq Global Select Market.

Lee shares are expected to begin trading as a Nasdaq-listed security on April 19, with the common stock continuing to trade under the "LEE" symbol.

Kevin Mowbray, president and CEO, said the move will not impact Lee's stock price or value, but will enhance the company's visibility as "a leading digital news and information provider."

Tim Millage, Lee's chief financial officer, said the move to Nasdaq will position the company "alongside some of the world's most innovative and pioneering technology leaders."

"This will enhance our visibility as a digital platform for news and information, exposing Lee to a new audience of investors that recognize the significant long-term value potential of our increasingly digital-first content and advertising platforms," Millage said.

For the better part of two centuries, our journalists have worked tirelessly to bring our readers the most important news of the day. We’re here to serve the community. We’re here to serve you.

Lee Enterprises owns half of Capital Newspapers, which publishes the Wisconsin State Journal, Capital Times and several other regional papers. The Capital Times Co. owns the other half.

The company continues to focus on growing its digital presence, "as the media landscape continues to evolve and audiences and advertising dollars shift from print to digital," Mowbray said during a call outlining the company's steps to grow digital capabilities. 

The company outlined a three-pillar approach that includes transforming the presentation of local news, accelerating overall subscription growth, and diversifying and expanding offerings for advertisers. 

Lee grew its digital-only subscribers more than 69% in each of the last five quarters. In December, the company had more than 286,000 digital-only subscribers, up from 100,000 a year ago.

On the advertising side, Mowbray highlighted Amplified Digital Agency, the company's full-service digital marketing agency, and in video revenue.

Over the next five years, the company aims to:

  • Grow total paid subscribers, reaching 900,000 digital-only subscribers, with a focus on "leveraging cutting-edge data and technology and expanded offerings for paid, niche content on topics where Lee has expertise and unique selling positions." Examples include a paid e-newsletter with exclusive content from leading wine experts in the Napa Valley region and a paid University of Nebraska sports platform.

    "This model will target audiences with thoughtfully-priced plans tailored to groups of digital users with specific use patterns, needs and interests," Mowbray said.

    He said the company hopes to reach "a digital inflection point" in fiscal year 2023, where digital-only subscriptions exceed the number of print subscribers, which the company expects will continue to wane over time.

  • Generate $100 million in annualized revenue from Amplified Digital Agency, which is expected in three years, by diversifying and expanding offerings for advertisers by launching a portfolio of video advertising initiatives and e-commerce sales strategies.
  • Use improved cash flows to continue debt repayment and achieve a long-term leverage target of less than 2 1/2 times the company's market value.

Mowbray said the company's strategy does not focus on consumers shifting away from print to digital.

"Instead, we are broadening our overall base to welcome new digital-only subscribers into the fold," Mowbray said. "And only 5% of our new digital subscribers were formally full-access (print) subscribers. Meaning that our growth in total audience is what's happening and not a cannibalization of our legacy print business."

He added the "digital-first" strategy to grow and convert newspaper website and mobile visitors to digital subscribers will put the company "on a path of sustainable revenue growth."


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