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Postmedia seeks at least $20.3 million in COVID-related emergency wage subsidies


TORONTO — Postmedia Network Canada Corp. expects to qualify for at least $20.3 million in COVID-related emergency wage subsidies from the federal government, the owner of Canada's largest newspaper chain said Friday.

It provided the emergency wage subsidy information with its second-quarter financial report, which included a $12.8-million loss for a three-month period prior to the alarming increase in coronavirus cases that prompted Canada to shut down large segments of its economy. 

Postmedia also reported a 7.9 per cent decline in revenue for the second quarter ended Feb. 29, reflecting a longer-term trend as advertisers have turned increasingly to Google and Facebook as well as other forms of digital media.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created even more difficult conditions for businesses that rely on advertisers, as corporate ad spending is slashed to save costs.

Postmedia president and chief executive Andrew MacLeod said the company has been focused on keeping its employees safe while delivering critical information during the crisis. 

"The economic disruptions emanating from the pandemic challenge our ability to foresee the long-term impact on our business but we are committed to preserving liquidity, constraining costs and maximizing revenues," MacLeod said. 

Postmedia announced April 28 that it would lay off about 80 employees, including 30 permanently, and close 15 community publications in Manitoba and Ontario. Wages for remaining staff who earn $60,000 or more are being reduced by at least five per cent. MacLeod's pay reduction is 30 per cent.

Postmedia said Friday it has applied for $7.3 million from the first phase of the emergency program covering March 15 to April 11 and anticipates an additional $13 million to $15 million for the second phase from April 12 to June 6.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that the emergency wage-subsidy program would be extended with details to come next week.

In addition to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy created because of the COVID downturn, Postmedia and other newspaper publishers have been applying for money from other federal and provincial programs designed to ease the shift to digital publishing. 

The most significant of these measures is a tax credit that will allow qualified newspapers to claim up to 25 per cent of the wages or salaries paid to journalists or other eligible employees.

Postmedia's total revenue for the second quarter was $134.2 million, down from $145.7 million a year earlier. The $11.5-million decrease included $9.9 million from print advertising and $2 million of print circulation revenue, partly offset by a $1.5-million increase of digital revenue.

Net loss attributable to common equity holders equalled 14 cents per share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $5.08 million or five cents per share including discontinued operations. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:PNC.A, TSX:PNC.B)

David Paddon, The Canadian Press

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