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Yellow Media Limited Reports First Quarter 2014 Financial Results

MONTREAL, QUEBEC -- (Marketwired) -- 05/08/14 -- Yellow Media Limited (TSX:Y)

--  The Company experiences a 10.6% year-over-year growth in digital
    revenues across its core YPG operations during the first quarter of 2014

--  Customer penetration of the Yellow Pages 360 degrees Solution reaches
    29.9% as at March 31, 2014, as compared to 18.9% last year 

--  The Company records net earnings of $39.2 million during the first
    quarter of 2014, as compared to $53.5 million for the same period last

--  A $73.5 million principal mandatory redemption payment on the 9.25%
    Senior Secured Notes is anticipated to be made on June 2, 2014 

--  Yellow Media develops a Return to Growth Plan to support its digital
    transformation and return the Company to revenue growth and stable

Yellow Media Limited (TSX:Y) (the "Company" or "Yellow Media") released its operational and financial results today for the first quarter ended March 31, 2014. The Company continues to advance the second phase of its digital transformation, designed to bring Yellow Media closer to its long-term objective of becoming Canada's leading local digital company.

"Supported by a healthier capital structure, the first phase of our transformation established a solid digital foundation for us to build upon," said Julien Billot, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yellow Media. "We are currently executing the second phase of our digital transformation, using this strengthened foundation to gain a leadership position within Canada's local digital advertising market while returning the Company to growth."

First Quarter 2014 Financial Results

Revenues for the first quarter of 2014 decreased 11.9% to $223.2 million, as compared to $253.3 million for the same period last year.

For the first quarter of 2014, digital revenues across our core YPG operations, which exclude the impact of Mediative and Wall2Wall, increased by 10.6% year-over-year. Consolidated digital revenues reached $104 million in the first quarter of 2014, representing a growth of 5.1%, and were negatively impacted by the loss of a national account at Mediative during the second quarter of 2013. During the first quarter of 2014, consolidated digital revenues represented 46.6% of total revenues, up from 39.1% during the same period in 2013.

Growth in digital revenues continues to result from the ongoing migration of traditional media customers towards digital products and services, as well as continued customer adoption of the Yellow Pages(TM) 360 degrees Solution. The penetration of the Yellow Pages 360 degrees Solution offering amongst Yellow Media's customer base, which is defined as customers who purchase three product categories or more, grew to 29.9% as at March 31, 2014 compared to 18.9% the year prior.

Print revenues continued to show stable declines during the first quarter of 2014, decreasing 22.7% year-over-year to reach $119.3 million.

EBITDA decreased to $94.6 million during the first quarter of 2014, as compared to $115.5 million last year. EBITDA remains adversely impacted by print revenue pressure and a lower EBITDA margin.

The EBITDA margin decreased to 42.4% for the three-month period ended March 31, 2014, as compared to 45.6% for the same period last year. The EBITDA margin for the first quarter of 2014 was primarily affected by lower print revenues, a change in product mix and investments required to advance the Company's digital transformation. The EBITDA margin for the first quarter of 2014 was also impacted by a non-recurring benefit associated with a litigation outcome. Excluding this element, the EBITDA margin for the first quarter of 2014 decreased to 41%.

In an effort to promote long-term profitability, the Company continues to invest in business efficiencies and the streamlining of operational processes. During the first quarter of 2014, YPG enhanced its digital fulfillment processes by automating the creation of Virtual Business Profiles. In addition, the Company is presently standardizing its existing legacy architecture through consolidation of print publishing systems and IT data centers.

For the first quarter ended March 31, 2014, the Company recorded net earnings of $39.2 million and basic earnings per share of $1.43. This compares to net earnings of $53.5 million and basic earnings per share of $1.91 for the same period last year. The decrease is mainly explained by lower EBITDA.

The Company used free cash flow of $3.3 million for the first quarter of 2014, as compared to free cash flow generation of $67.7 million last year. This decline results mainly from higher income taxes paid in 2014, as the Company was not required to pay income tax installments in 2013, lower EBITDA and higher restructuring payments related to the November 2013 workforce realignment.

Yellow Media expects to generate sufficient cash flow from its operations to invest in its digital transformation and service all future debt obligations. As at March 31, 2014, net debt totaled $541.2 million, which compares to $533.1 million as at December 31, 2013. On June 2, 2014, the Company anticipates making a $73.5 million mandatory redemption payment on its Senior Secured Notes.

"Yellow Media remains committed to delivering long-term, sustainable value to its shareholders," said Ginette Maille, Chief Financial Officer of Yellow Media. "We will increase shareholder value through execution of our digital transformation, thereby investing in projects that promote revenue growth and protect profitability. In addition, we will further strengthen and optimize our capital structure by maintaining a focus on debt repayment."

Operational Update

"Yellow Media's long-term objective remains unchanged, and we strive to develop into Canada's leading local digital company," said Billot. "The realization of this objective will come in multiple, distinct phases to be executed over the medium-to-long-term. As part of our second phase of transformation and Return to Growth Plan, we have focused our investments in projects that enhance our brand, media assets and go-to-market strategy, and, ultimately, improve our positioning within the local digital advertising market."

Extending our Brand Promise

--  The Company repositioned its flagship local search property from
    "yellowpages.ca" to "YP.ca" to boost brand recognition and strengthen
    the Company's digital identity. 

--  A television and digital advertising campaign was launched across Canada
    to grow usage and traffic on the YP mobile application. The campaign
    introduces Canadians to the new YP brand, while also highlighting the
    enhancements made on the mobile application to provide shoppers with an
    improved search experience. 

Strengthening our Media Assets

--  Total digital visits, which measures the number of visits made across
    the YP, RedFlagDeals and ShopWise desktop and mobile properties, grew to
    94.1 million. This compares to 93.8 million visits for the same period
    last year.  

--  The Company launched its redesigned YP online and mobile properties to
    provide users with more relevant search results, quick access to
    trending local search themes, an improved ability to discover local
    deals and popular merchants in and around their neighborhoods, as well
    as faster response times. 

--  Yellow Media expanded its database of business information by creating
    250,000 new, more targeted business categories and adding richer
    information to its national and local merchant pages. The Company also
    continued the rollout of Merchant Content Collection Applications across
    its sales force to promote the real-time collection and publishing of
    customer information. 

Enhancing our Go-to-Market Strategy

a) Promoting Customer Acquisition

--  Total customer count was 270,000 as at March 31, 2014, compared to
    300,000 at the end of the same period last year.  

--  Customer acquisition for the twelve-month period ended March 31, 2014
    stood at 16,500. The rate of customer acquisition continued to improve,
    with customer acquisition for the twelve month periods ended March 31,
    2013 and December 31, 2013 having totaled 16,400 and 15,200,

--  A new Customer Relationship Management platform was implemented across
    the Company's acquisition call centers, automating the routing and
    assignment of incoming leads to promote effective leads management and

b) Promoting Customer Retention

--  The customer renewal rate declined slightly to reach 85% as at 
    March 31, 2014, as compared to 86% for the same period last year. 

--  The Company remains committed to providing local businesses with the
    industry's most valuable, diversified and comprehensive digital
    services. Yellow Media recently launched Smart Digital Display across
    its sales channels, a display advertising solution that helps small and
    medium enterprises ("SMEs") build an online presence by exposing their
    digital banner ads to local online audiences.  

--  Yellow Media also introduced a social media solution to help SMEs
    establish and maintain visibility on Facebook. Currently being rolled
    out to customers in Ontario and Western Canada and anticipated to be
    launched nationally by June 2014, this solution provides customers with
    professional Facebook Page creation, optimization of their social media
    presence and Facebook Ad campaign management. 

The Return to Growth Plan

Following the Company's progress in the first quarter of 2014, the Return to Growth Plan (the "Plan") has been established to efficiently guide the Company as it continues to execute upon its second phase of digital transformation. The Plan serves to leverage investments made in 2013, as well as the Company's strengthened digital foundation, to gain a leadership position within Canada's local digital advertising market.

Successful implementation of the Plan will be promoted through ongoing focus on the following pillars of transformation:

--  Extending the Brand Promise - Investments will be made to evolve legacy
    perceptions of the brand and boost awareness of the Company's platforms
    and solutions. A simplified brand architecture will be implemented,
    positioning Yellow Media as a differentiated, unique digital player
    within the local neighborhood economy. National multi-media campaigns
    will also be deployed to increase usage of its properties and promote
    customer acquisition.  

--  Strengthening its Media Assets - Investments will be made across the
    Company's owned and operated digital media to attract and grow
    audiences. Improved content and functionalities will be added onto the
    YP properties to help users best fulfill their daily needs. In addition,
    the Company will develop new verticals to deliver a more targeted search
    experience and expand Yellow Media's share of business search in
    underpenetrated categories such as shopping, restaurants, real-estate
    and leisure. An enhanced focus will also be maintained on evolving the
    Company's mobile and tablet properties and providing an upgraded on-the-
    go local search experience. 

--  Enhancing its Go-to-Market Strategy - The Company will evolve its suite
    of digital products and services by introducing simplified and more
    verticalized offerings, as well as performance-based solutions that best
    leverage the power of its owned and operated digital properties and
    protect profitability. In conjunction with improved customer acquisition
    and retention efforts, Yellow Media anticipates returning to a growth in
    customer count by 2017. An expanded sales force, as well as new
    technologies, processes and training programs, will be developed to
    promote an acquisition-centric sales culture throughout the
    organization. Furthermore, Yellow Media will enhance customer
    satisfaction by improving basic service levels and introducing more
    personalized levels of customer service to its clients. Lastly,
    Meditative will invest to strengthen its offerings to national agencies,
    customers and retailers. They will also engage in research, development
    and innovation within digital marketing to help support Yellow Media's
    ongoing transformation. 

The Company has put in place an internal Transformation Office to implement the Return to Growth Plan. Reporting to the Chief Executive Officer, the Transformation Office will be led by Stephen Port, Vice President - Transformation Office, and assume full ownership and delivery of projects supporting the Plan.

"Successful execution of our Return to Growth Plan will significantly improve our relationship with Canadian businesses and audiences," said Billot. "Upon completion of the Return to Growth Plan, Yellow Media will be equipped with a strengthened platform onto which it can diversify, start new digital businesses and, ultimately, meet its objective of becoming Canada's leading local digital company."

The Plan is expected to allow the Company to achieve consolidated revenue growth by 2018. Digital revenues are anticipated to surpass print revenues in 2015 and grow at high single-digit annual rates thereafter. As print revenue stabilization remains challenging to forecast, the Company will continue to optimize the profitability of the print platform through redesigned offers, targeted directory distribution, as well as the streamlining of operational processes. Profitability will also be promoted through the automation of various digital fulfillment processes and improved productivity across our sales channels.

The Company will be required to make incremental operating and capital expenditures over the short-to-medium term to promote proper execution of the Return to Growth Plan. Consequently, EBITDA margins will remain under pressure relative to 2013, as additional investments will be made during the remainder of 2014 and in 2015 to strengthen the brand promise, improve the user experience and grow and maintain digital audiences.

Annual capital expenditures will increase to approximately $85 to $90 million in 2014 and $70 to $75 million in 2015 as the Company develops IT platforms to support growth in digital audiences, customer acquisition, customer retention and new product introduction.

By 2018, upon returning to revenue growth, the Company anticipates EBITDA margins to stabilize between 30% and 35% and capital expenditures to be maintained at approximately 5% of consolidated revenues.

"The Return to Growth Plan will significantly strengthen Yellow Media's financial profile, allowing it to maintain a sustainable level of revenue growth and profitability," said Maille. "In conjunction, the Company will continue to maintain an enhanced focus on debt repayment and aim to significantly delever its balance sheet by 2018."

The Company has made organizational changes to ensure it has the right expertise in place to implement the Return to Growth Plan. Among these changes, Rene Poirier, Chief Information Officer of Yellow Media, will lead the organization's Information Services and Information Technology functions and direct the end-to-end fulfillment of all related projects. Paul Ryan, previously Chief Technology Officer of Yellow Media, will become Mediative's Chief Technology Officer to support their growth in the Canadian national digital advertising market as well as foster an environment of continued digital innovation.

Investor Conference Call

Yellow Media Limited will hold an analyst and media call at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) on May 8, 2014 to discuss the first quarter 2014 results. The call may be accessed by dialing (416) 340-2218 within the Toronto area, or 1 866 225-2055 outside of Toronto.

The call will be simultaneously webcast on the Company's website at http://www.ypg.com/en/investors/financial-reports/2014/quarterly-reports/first-quarter-webcast.

The conference call will be archived in the Investors section of the site at www.ypg.com.

A playback of the call can also be accessed from May 8 to May 15, 2014 by dialing (905) 694-9451 within the Toronto area, or 1 800 408-3053 outside Toronto.

The conference passcode is 3237581.

About Yellow Media Limited

Yellow Media Limited (TSX:Y) is a Canadian digital and print media company, offering businesses comprehensive media solutions to meet their key marketing objectives and providing consumers with platforms to access reliable local business information. By helping local businesses foster stronger relationships with their consumers through its various media, the Company encourages the growth of thriving neighbourhood economies. Yellow Media holds some of Canada's leading local search properties and publications including YP.ca(TM), Canada411.ca and RedFlagDeals.com(TM), the YP, ShopWise and RedFlagDeals mobile applications and Yellow Pages(TM) print directories. Yellow Media is also a leader in national digital advertising through Mediative, a division of Yellow Pages Group devoted to digital marketing and performance media services for national-scale agencies and customers. For more information, visit www.ypg.com.

Caution Concerning Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements about the objectives, strategies, financial conditions, results of operations and businesses of the Company. These statements are forward-looking as they are based on our current expectations, as at May 8, 2014, about our business and the markets we operate in, and on various estimates and assumptions. Our actual results could materially differ from our expectations if known or unknown risks affect our business, or if our estimates or assumptions turn out to be inaccurate. As a result, there is no assurance that any forward-looking statements will materialize. Risks that could cause our results to differ materially from our current expectations are discussed in section 7 of our May 8, 2014 Management's Discussion and Analysis. We disclaim any intention or obligation to update any forward-looking statements, except as required by law, even if new information becomes available, as a result of future events or for any other reason.

Financial Highlights                                                        
(in thousands of Canadian dollars - except share information)               
                                                        For the three-month 
                                                    periods ended March 31, 
Yellow Media Limited                                       2014        2013 
Revenues                                               $223,203    $253,277 
Income from operations                                  $73,302     $95,595 
Net earnings                                            $39,222     $53,465 
Basic earnings per share attributable to common                             
 shareholders                                             $1.43       $1.91 
Cash flow from operating activities                     $10,910     $86,588 
EBITDA(1)                                               $94,621    $115,478 
EBITDA margin(1)                                           42.4%       45.6%
Weighted average shares outstanding                  27,419,026  27,955,077 

Non-IFRS Measures(1)

In order to provide a better understanding of the results, the Company uses the term EBITDA, defined as income from operations before depreciation and amortization and restructuring and special charges. Management believes this measure is reflective of ongoing operations. This term is not a performance measure defined under IFRS. EBITDA does not have any standardized meaning and are therefore not likely to be comparable to similar measures used by other publicly traded companies. Management believes EBITDA to be an important measure.

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