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Kevin Mowbray

Kevin Mowbray

DAVENPORT — Lee Enterprises, publisher of The Courier, on Friday reported a double-digit rise in fourth-quarter earnings, boosted by solid growth in digital revenue.

Net income for the quarter ended Sept. 30 was $4.4 million, or 7 cents per share. That compared favorably to year-earlier net income of $3.5 million, or 6 cents per share.

Total operating revenue for the quarter was $139.7 million, a 0.3 percent decline from year-earlier quarterly revenue of $140.2 million, the Davenport, Iowa-based company said.

The company said it reduced debt by $15 million in the quarter. As of Sept. 30, the principal amount of debt was $484.9 million.

For the full year, net income rose to $47.0 million, or 82 cents per share. That’s an increase of 64.5 percent from fiscal year 2017 net income of $28.6 million, or 50 cents. Revenue for the year, however, fell 4.1 percent to $543.9 million.

A continuing bright spot for the company is digital.

Total digital revenue, including digital advertising and digital services, was $30.3 million for the quarter, up 12.6 percent compared with a year ago and up 7.7 percent on a same property basis. Mobile, tablet, desktop and app sites attracted monthly average visits of 79.8 million for the current quarter, an increase of 12.4 percent over the prior year.

“We believe we are at the top of the industry at managing the transition to digital,” Lee President and CEO Kevin Mowbray said in a statement. “Our margins have remained steady for more than a decade and are currently more than double the industry average. Also, based on third party research, we believe we capture more than twice the industry average in digital market share.”

Lee’s media products — daily newspapers, weekly and specialty publications and digital products — serve nearly 50 markets in 21 states.

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