Morning Brief: Shopping Centers Cut Hours

Local shopping centers are feeling the pinch of the economic downturn, reports staff writer Ylan Q. Mui. Westfield Group said shorter hours will take effect next week at most of its U.S. shopping centers, including Montgomery, Wheaton Plaza and Annapolis malls. Those centers will change weekday hours to open a half hour later at 10:30 a.m. and close a half hour earlier at 9 p.m. On Saturdays, they open at 10 a.m. as usual but close a half hour earlier at 9 p.m. Sunday hours are unchanged.

The downturn is also taking its toll on the news business. The Washington Post Co. earnings fell 77 percent in the fourth quarter of last year compared with the same period in 2007, driven down by a large impairment charge.

The Post Co. reported fourth-quarter net income of $18.8 million ($2.01 per share) on revenue of $1.16 billion, compared with net income of $82.9 million ($8.71) on revenue of $1.13 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The company's newspaper division, which includes the flagship The Washington Post, reported a $14.4 million operating loss for the fourth quarter and a $192.7 million operating loss for all of 2008, nearly half of which came from the cost of early-retirement packages taken by some 231 Post employees. The charge dragged The Post Co. into the red in the second quarter of 2008, for the first time in its 37-year history as a publicly traded company.

The company's magazine division -- largely Newsweek -- reported a $10.9 million operating profit for the fourth quarter, but a $16.1 million operating loss for 2008.

By Alejandro Lazo  |  February 25, 2009; 10:02 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch , Morning Brief
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