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FP Newspapers Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter 2013 Results and March 2014 Dividend

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA -- (Marketwired) -- 03/12/14 -- FP Newspapers Inc. (TSX:FP) ("FPI") announces financial results for the quarter ended December 30, 2013. FPI owns securities entitling it to 49% of the distributable cash of FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership ("FPLP").

Fourth quarter operating results of FPI

FPI reported net earnings of $1.6 million for the three months ended December 30, 2013, compared to net earnings of $2.0 million for the same period last year. The decrease in net earnings is primarily due to lower equity earnings in FPLP.

Fourth quarter operating results of FPLP

FPLP's revenue for the three months ended December 31, 2013 was $28.1 million, a decrease of $2.1 million or 6.9% from the same three months in the prior year. Print advertising revenues for the three months ended December 31, 2013 were $18.7 million, a 9.3% decrease compared to the same period last year. FPLP's largest print advertising revenue category, display advertising including colour, was $11.8 million, a decrease of $1.8 million or 12.9% from the same period in the prior year, primarily due to decreased spending in the automotive, telecommunications and retail categories. The decrease in print advertising revenues is consistent with the widespread decline of retail sales reported by Statistics Canada in its December retail trade report. Statistics Canada reported that the largest decline in dollar terms was in the motor vehicle and parts sector, with most of this decline coming from lower sales at new car dealers. Statistics Canada reported that most store types typically associated with the holiday shopping period registered weaker sales in December and that extreme weather conditions were a factor. Manitoba retail sales in December were down by 2.4% versus November, which is slightly higher than the average decline of 1.8% reported by Statistics Canada for the overall Canadian economy. Classified advertising revenues for the fourth quarter decreased by $0.2 million or 7.1% compared to the same period last year, primarily due to a decrease in the employment, automobile and real estate categories. Flyer distribution revenues for the fourth quarter were unchanged compared to the prior year.

Print circulation revenues for the fourth quarter decreased by $0.3 million or 4.9%, primarily due to lower unit sales. Commercial printing revenues for the quarter were lower by 4.7%, primarily due to the loss of recurring print work from a customer that went out of business. Digital revenues for the fourth quarter increased by $0.2 million or 27.0% compared to the same period last year, primarily due to the increases in online and mobile product advertising revenues.

Operating expenses for the three months ended December 31, 2013 were $23.2 million, a $0.8 million or 3.3% decrease from the same quarter last year. Employee compensation costs, excluding restructuring charges, for the fourth quarter decreased by $0.3 million or 3.0%, primarily due to the reduction in the number of employees. Newsprint expense for FPLP's own publications for the quarter decreased by $0.2 million, primarily due to fewer circulation copies printed. Newsprint expense for commercial printing for the fourth quarter decreased by 10.6% due to a small decrease in print jobs. During the fourth quarter of 2012 a restructuring charge of $0.1 million relating to employee severance costs was incurred.

EBITDA(1) for the three months ended December 31, 2013 was $5.9 million, a decrease of $1.3 million or 18.2% from the same period last year. EBITDA(1) margin for the three months ending December 31, 2013 was 21.1% compared to 24.0% in the same period last year.

FPLP's net earnings were $4.5 million for the three months ended December 31, 2013, compared to $5.8 million for the same period last year.

Distributable cash attributable to FPI(2) for the fourth quarter was $2.3 million or $0.332 per share, an increase from $2.0 million or $0.293 per share for the same quarter last year. The increase in distributable cash attributable to FPI is primarily the result of a decrease in the excess of pension funding versus accounting expense primarily due to higher employee pension contributions, lower finance costs and the maintenance capital recovery in the fourth quarter of 2013 representing amounts internally financed during the previous three quarters which will be recovered as part of a post year-end lease financing transaction.

Twelve month operating results of FPI

Revenue for the year ended December 30, 2013 was $7.0 million compared to $7.2 million in 2012, the decrease was the result of lower equity earnings from FPI's investment in FPLP. For the year ended December 30, 2013, FPI recorded a current income tax expense of $1.5 million and a deferred income tax expense of $0.3 million compared to a current income tax expense of $3.4 million and a deferred income tax recovery of $1.5 million in 2012. Other comprehensive income for 2013 was $1.6 million compared to a loss of $2.1 million in 2012. The other comprehensive income (loss) results from FPI's equity share of FPLP's recognition of actuarial losses related to the defined benefit pension plan.

Twelve month operating results of FPLP

FPLP's revenue for the twelve months ended December 31, 2013 was $106.3 million, a decrease of $5.3 million or 4.7% from the prior year. Print advertising revenues for the year ended December 31, 2013 were $70.3 million, a 6.3% decrease compared to last year. FPLP's largest print advertising revenue category, display advertising including colour was $44.8 million, a decrease of $3.7 million or 7.6% from the prior year, primarily due to decreased spending in the automotive, telecommunications, government and travel categories and the general slowdown experienced by many retailers during the fourth quarter as discussed in the "Fourth quarter operating results of FPLP" section of this report. Classified advertising revenues for the 2013 year decreased by $0.9 million or 8.8% compared to last year, primarily due to lower spending in the automotive and employment categories. Flyer distribution revenues were unchanged compared to the prior year.

Print circulation revenues for the year ended December 31, 2013 decreased by $1.0 million or 3.8%, with lower unit sales offsetting increased revenue from higher subscription rates. Commercial printing revenues for 2013 increased by $0.2 million, which is primarily attributable to increased printing volumes at Derksen Printers. Digital revenues for 2013 increased by $0.5 million or 18.6%, primarily due to the increase in online and mobile product advertising revenues. Other revenue decreased by $0.3 million primarily due to a reduction in revenue from a Winnipeg Jets medallion collection circulation promotion campaign.

Operating expenses for the year ended December 31, 2013 were $90.5 million, a $4.5 million or 4.7% decrease from last year. Employee compensation costs, excluding restructuring charges, for the year decreased by $1.2 million or 2.7%, primarily due to employee reductions in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2012. During 2012 restructuring charges of $0.6 million were incurred relating to termination payments for positions eliminated. Newsprint expense for FPLP's own publications for the year decreased by $0.8 million or 9.3%, primarily due to lower printing volumes mainly from fewer circulation copies. Delivery costs decreased by $0.6 million or 3.6% primarily due to lower carrier costs from reduced number of circulation subscriptions delivered and a negotiated reduction in carrier travel costs. Other expenses for the year decreased by $1.1 million or 5.8% compared to the prior year, primarily due to expenses incurred in 2012 related to outside print costs for producing third-party magazines and costs for the Winnipeg Jets medallion circulation promotion project and a drawdown in 2013 in the bad debt reserve due to favourable collection experience.

EBITDA(1) for the year ended December 31, 2013 was $20.0 million compared to $20.9 million in 2012, a decrease of 4.1%. EBITDA(1) margin for the twelve months ended December 31, 2013 was 18.8% compared to 18.7% in 2012.

For the year ended December 31, 2013 finance costs decreased by $0.4 million or 18.8% as a result of lower interest on the term loan and finance leases due to lower principal balances outstanding, together with a reduction in the guarantee fee resulting from the elimination of the related party guarantee last year.

FPLP's net earnings were $14.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2013, compared to $14.7 million in the prior year.

Cash available for distribution attributable to FPI(2) was $5.0 million or $0.718 per share for the twelve months ended December 31, 2013, compared to $4.4 million or $0.635 per share in 2012. The increase in cash available for distribution attributable to FPI in 2013 is primarily due to a reduction of $0.7 million in maintenance capital spending and a reduction of $1.1 million in principal repayments on our term loan partially offset by lower EBITDA(1) of FPLP.

Dividends

FPI declared dividends to shareholders of $4.1 million or $0.60 per share for the year ended December 30, 2013, unchanged from the prior year. The payout ratio for the year ended December 31, 2013 was 86.6% versus 94.5% in the previous year.

March 2014 Dividend

FPI today announced a cash dividend of $0.05 per share, payable on April 30, 2014 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 31, 2014.

Outlook

The fourth quarter of 2013 saw an accelerated decline in our print advertising revenues, which accounts for approximately 80% of our print and distribution revenue category, and this trend has continued in January and February of 2014. The extreme frigid weather experienced in December, that was a factor contributing to the December retail sales slow-down, has continued throughout both January and February 2014. Advertising revenues are extremely difficult to forecast and while management and staff are focused on dealing with this revenue decline, there is no way of forecasting how successful these efforts can be. Distribution revenues, which make up the remaining 20.0% of our non-digital advertising revenues have been, and are expected to continue to be relatively stable versus the 2013 full year levels.

Circulation revenues, which account for approximately 24.0% of our overall revenues, are expected to be near 2013 levels as subscription and single copy rate increases should offset the continued trend of slowly declining print circulation subscriber and single copy sales.

Digital revenues, which come primarily in the form of website advertising, are expected to continue the multi-year growth trend and in 2014 we are budgeting for an overall increase in this category of between 10.0% and 15.0%. We're forecasting for increased Commercial printing revenues primarily resulting from our investment in ultra-violet ink printing equipment at our Derksen Printers' business in Steinbach which adds glossier paper stock into our mix of available printed products. Other revenues are forecasted to decrease from the 2013 level due to non-recurring Winnipeg Jets pin promotion revenue in 2013.

Employee compensation is our single biggest expense, and in 2013 accounted for 45.0% of our total operating expenses. Collective bargaining agreements were completed in 2013 covering all our unionized employees and these agreements run to June 30, 2018 for Winnipeg Free Press and Canstar Community News employees and delivery contractors and December 31, 2018 for Brandon Sun employees. The Winnipeg collective agreements include a 0.5% increase effective July 1, 2014 and the same increase for Brandon employees is effective January 1, 2015. We are budgeting for overall employee compensation to decrease by between 1.5% and 2.0% in 2014 primarily due to a reduction in the number of employees and a decrease in the defined benefit pension plan expense. The defined benefit pension plan expense, which has been increasing over a number of years, will be lower in 2014, primarily due to improvements in the overall economy in 2013 resulting in actuarial calculation assumptions lowering our expense and a full year of increased employee contribution levels, included in the July 1, 2013 Winnipeg bargaining agreement.

Delivery costs, which account for approximately 18.0% of our overall operating expenses, are budgeted to decrease by between 2.0% and 3.0% in 2014, primarily due to a continuation of a slow decline in printed circulation copies delivered and a full year of reductions negotiated in the Winnipeg delivery contractor collective bargaining agreement.

We are forecasting a decrease in the other expense category of approximately $1.5 million or 8.5%, primarily due to the elimination of third party inserting costs which started in January 2014 with the start-up of the new high speed inserting equipment added to our Winnipeg production facility. In addition to these savings, we are forecasting for the reduction of contracted third party work in the pre-press area by moving this work in-house and savings from the non-recurring Winnipeg Jets pin promotion in 2013.

Newsprint prices, which decreased by approximately 2.5% at the end of the first quarter of 2013, are not forecasted to change significantly in 2014. If prices remain at current levels, newsprint expense for our own publications in 2014 would be lower by approximately 3.0%, due to fewer print circulation copies. Newsprint and sheet-fed paper expense for our commercial printing business is forecasted to increase by approximately $0.3 million primarily due to planned increased commercial printing work at our Derksen Printers' business unit in Steinbach resulting from our investment in ultra-violet ink printing equipment which allows for products to be printed on a wider range of paper stocks.

Maintenance capital spending for 2014 is forecasted to be between $1.0 and $1.5 million. The majority of this spending will be incurred to replace the Winnipeg plant's cooling water system machinery as required under provincial environmental legislation. Other smaller capital investments are planned to upgrade computer software and hardware.

Finance costs are forecasted to be higher by $0.1 million primarily resulting from FP entering into five year equipment financing leases during the first quarter of 2014 for the high speed inserting equipment and used conveyor equipment installations at our Winnipeg production plant. With this additional $4.1 million of equipment financing, we estimate our total principal payments on our finance leases will increase by approximately $0.7 million over the 2013 level. Principal repayments on our term loan, which runs to January 31, 2016, are expected to be unchanged from the $1.0 million repaid in 2013.

An actuarial valuation, which is required on our defined benefit pension plan as of December 31, 2013, will ultimately determine the required level of employer funding for 2014. Our preliminary estimate of ranges is for a company funding decrease of between $1.0 million and $1.5 million versus the 2013 level. The anticipated decrease in employer funding is primarily due to higher bond yields, which are used to calculate the present value of the pension obligation, in addition to improvements in the investment return of the assets held in the pension plan and the impact of a full year of the increase in the employee contributions to the plan which took effect on July 1, 2013.

Additional Information

Additional information including financial statements and management's discussion and analysis can be found on the Company's website at www.fpnewspapers.com or on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

Caution Regarding Forward-looking Statements

Certain statements in this news release may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of applicable securities laws. All statements other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements. These statements include but are not limited to statements regarding management's intent, belief or current expectations with respect to market and general economic conditions, future costs and operating performance. Generally, but not always, forward-looking statements will be indicated by words such as "may", "will", "intend", "anticipate", "expect", "believe", "plan", "forecast", "is budgeting for" or similar terminology.

Forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties that may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of FPI or FPLP, or industry results, to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to, the current general economic uncertainty, FPLP's ability to effectively manage growth and maintain its profitability, FPLP's ability to operate in a highly competitive industry, FPLP's ability to compete with other forms of media, FPLP's ability to attract advertisers, FPLP's reliance upon key personnel, FPLP's relatively high fixed costs, FPLP's dependence upon particular advertising customer segments, indebtedness incurred in making acquisitions, the availability of financing for capital improvements, costs related to capital expenditures, cyclical and seasonal variations in FPLP's revenues, the risk of acts of terrorism, the cost of newsprint, the potential for labour disruptions, the risk of equipment failure, and the effect of Canadian tax laws. Additional information about these and other factors is discussed under "Risk Factors" in FPI's Annual Information Form dated March 13, 2014, which is available at www.sedar.com.

In addition, although the forward-looking statements contained in this news release are based upon assumptions that management of FPI and FPLP believe to be reasonable, such assumptions may prove to be incorrect.

Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof and, except as required by law, FPI and FPLP assume no obligation to update or revise them to reflect new events or circumstances. Because forward-looking statements are inherently uncertain, readers should not place undue reliance on them.

About FPI

FPI owns securities entitling it to 49% of the distributable cash of FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership ("FPLP"). FPLP owns the Winnipeg Free Press, the Brandon Sun, and their related businesses, as well as the Canstar Community News division, the publisher of six community newspapers in the Winnipeg region, The Carillon in Steinbach with its related commercial printing operations and the Carberry News Express weekly publication. The Winnipeg Free Press publishes six days a week for delivery to subscribers and single copy sales, serving Winnipeg and Manitoba with an average Monday through Saturday circulation of approximately 109,700 copies. On Sundays the Winnipeg Free Press publishes a newspaper sold through single-copy retail outlets and vending boxes. The Brandon Sun publishes six days a week, serving the region with an average circulation of approximately 11,900 copies. Canstar Community News publishes weekly with an average circulation of approximately 200,000 copies. The businesses employ approximately 540 people in Winnipeg, Brandon, Steinbach and Carberry, Manitoba.

Conference Call

The Corporation invites you to participate in a conference call on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern (11:00 a.m. Central) to discuss the fourth quarter results.

The dial-in number is 416-340-2216, or dial toll free at 866-226-1792. To ensure your participation, please dial in five minutes before the start of the conference call. Management's presentation will be followed by a question and answer period.

For those unable to participate, the call will be available to listeners upon completion of the call until April 2, 2014. To hear the replay dial 905-694-9451 or dial toll free at 800-408-3053. The replay code is 9076644.

Non-IFRS financial measures

(1) EBITDA

FPLP believes that in addition to net earnings as reported on FPLP's interim condensed consolidated statements of earnings, EBITDA is a useful supplemental measure as it is a measure used by many of FPLP's unitholders, creditors and analysts as a proxy for the amount of cash generated by FPLP's operating activities. EBITDA is not a recognized measure of financial performance under IFRS. Investors are cautioned that EBITDA should not be construed as an alternative to net earnings determined in accordance with IFRS as an indicator of FPLP`s performance. FPLP's method of calculating EBITDA may differ from other issuers and, accordingly, EBITDA may not be comparable to measures used by other issuers. FPLP's method of calculating EBITDA is detailed in the Management's Discussion and Analysis for the year ended December 31, 2013 on FPI's website www.fpnewspapers.com or on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

(2) Distributable Cash Attributable to FPI

FPI believes that in addition to the disclosure of cash flow from operations, distributable cash attributable to FPI is an important supplemental measure of cash flow because it provides investors with an indication of the amount of cash available for distribution to Shareholders and because such calculations are required by the terms of the partnership agreement governing FPLP. Distributable cash attributable to FPI is not a defined term under IFRS, and it should not be construed as an alternative to using net earnings or the statements of cash flows as measures of profitability and cash flow. Readers are cautioned that distributable cash as calculated by FPI may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. FPI uses this measure as a factor to determine whether to adjust its monthly dividends to Shareholders. FPLP's method of calculating distributable cash attributable to FPI is detailed in the Management's Discussion and Analysis for the year ended December 31, 2013 on FPI's website www.fpnewspapers.com or on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

FP Newspapers Inc.
Statements of Earnings and Comprehensive Income
(unaudited, in thousands of Canadian dollars except per share amounts)

                                   Three Months Ended   Twelve Months Ended
                                          December 30,          December 30,
                                      2013       2012       2013       2012
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Equity interest from FP                                                    
 Canadian Newspapers Limited                                               
 Partnership Class A limited                                               
 partner units                     $ 2,212    $ 2,853    $ 6,979    $ 7,218
Administration expenses                (57)       (65)      (248)      (251)
Other income                             -          1          1          5
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Net earnings before income                                                 
 taxes                               2,155      2,789      6,732      6,972
Current income tax (expense)          (392)       (85)    (1,513)    (3,462)
Deferred income tax (expense)                                              
 recovery                             (204)      (688)      (323)     1,594
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Net earnings for the year          $ 1,559    $ 2,016    $ 4,896    $ 5,104
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Items that will not be                                                     
 reclassified to net earnings:                                             
  Equity interest of other                                                 
   comprehensive income (loss)                                             
   from FP Canadian Newspapers                                             
   Limited Partnership               1,421     (1,623)     2,226     (2,902)
  Deferred income tax (expense)                                            
   recovery                           (383)       438       (601)       784
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Comprehensive income for the                                               
 year                              $ 2,597      $ 831    $ 6,521    $ 2,986
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Weighted average number of                                                 
 Common Shares outstanding       6,902,592  6,902,592  6,902,592  6,902,592
Net earnings per share - basic                                             
 and diluted                       $ 0.226    $ 0.292    $ 0.709    $ 0.739


FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership
Consolidated Income Statements and Statements of Comprehensive Income
(unaudited, in thousands of Canadian dollars)

                                   Three Months Ended   Twelve months Ended
                                          December 31,          December 31,
                                      2013       2012       2013       2012
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Revenue                                                                    
  Print advertising               $ 18,735   $ 20,649   $ 70,341   $ 75,034
  Print circulation                  6,430      6,760     25,980     27,006
  Commercial Printing                1,355      1,422      4,951      4,763
  Digital                              978        770      3,447      2,906
  Promotion and services               592        583      1,553      1,819
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOTAL REVENUE                     $ 28,090   $ 30,184  $ 106,272  $ 111,528
  Employee compensation             10,591     10,920     42,589     43,774
  Newsprint and other paper          2,335      2,579      9,065      9,899
  Delivery                           4,364      4,512     16,531     17,150
  Other                              4,865      4,783     18,085     19,200
  Depreciation and amortization      1,047      1,061      4,232      4,314
  Restructuring charge                   -        137          -        639
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
OPERATING INCOME                     4,888      6,192     15,770     16,552
Other income                            32         59        148        200
Finance costs                         (406)      (435)    (1,675)    (2,064)
Gain (loss) on interest rate                                               
 swap                                    -          6         (1)        43
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
NET EARNINGS FOR THE PERIOD        $ 4,514    $ 5,822   $ 14,242   $ 14,731
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Items that may be reclassified                                             
 subsequently to net earnings:                                             
  Unrealized (loss) gain on                                                
   investment                           (7)        (7)        33         25
Items that will not be                                                     
 reclassified to net earnings:                                             
  Remeasurements for defined                                               
   benefit pension plan              2,900     (3,313)     4,543     (5,924)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
COMPREHENSIVE INCOME FOR THE                                               
 PERIOD                            $ 7,407    $ 2,502   $ 18,818    $ 8,832
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Contacts:
FP Newspapers Inc.
Daniel Koshowski
CFO
(204) 697-7425
(204) 632-0281 (FAX)
www.fpnewspapers.com

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