Lamar reports first-quarter loss of $6.2 million

Lamar Advertising Co., the Baton Rouge outdoor advertiser, reported a first-quarter loss of $6.2 million, or 7 cents per share, compared with a loss of $22.9 million, or 25 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company’s revenue increased to $283.5 million, up 6.5 percent over the same period in 2012. The larger loss in 2012 was primarily the result of $30 million in costs for paying down debt, the company said.

Stock analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected a first-quarter loss of 3 cents per share on revenue of $283.8 million.

Lamar shares closed Thursday at $47.99, down 61 cents. More than 2.3 million shares changed hands, roughly three times the normal trading volume.

During a conference call with investors and stock analysts, Chief Executive Officer Sean Reilly said he doesn’t have “a substantive update” on the conversion of the company to a Real Estate Investment Trust.

In November, Lamar asked the Internal Revenue Service’s opinion on the move, Reilly said. The process is supposed to take three to six months, and Lamar is close to the latter mark.

“I know everybody’s anxious. We’re all anxious. As soon as we get it, we’ll get with everybody,” Reilly said.

Real Estate Investment Trusts typically invest in property or mortgages. If the trusts distribute at least 90 percent of earnings to shareholders, the trusts don’t have to pay corporate income tax on those profits.

Shareholders pay income tax on the dividends.

If the IRS approves, Lamar shareholders would vote on the move sometime this year and convert as of Jan. 1, 2014.

In response to an analyst’s question, Reilly said the company, as one of the first billboard firms to become a REIT, could have an advantage when it comes to acquisitions.

Lamar will be “superbly positioned” next year to take advantage of any opportunities that arise, he said.

Lamar said it expects second-quarter revenue will be between $322 million to $325 million, an increase of 2 percent to 3 percent.

Stock analysts’ forecasts predict revenue of $323.4 million and earnings of 22 cents
per share for the second quarter.