Lamar narrows first-quarter loss _lowres

A solar panel sits atop a Lamar Advertising billboard in Florida, the first state where the company has converted to solar power. (Photo provided by Lamar Advertising)

Lamar Advertising Co. lowered its first-quarter losses to $4.8 million, or 5 cents per share, compared with $10.3 million, or 11 cents per share, a year ago.

The Baton Rouge outdoor advertising giant increased revenue to $284.9 million, compared with $276.6 million a year ago.

The company’s results fell short of Wall Street’s forecasts. Stock analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast earnings of 6 cents per share on revenue of $292.2 million.

Lamar said its loss reflects the company’s status as regular domestic C Corporation for federal income tax purposes. If the company converts to a Real Estate Investment Trust, the company said its tax expenses would be lower.

The trusts don’t have to pay corporate income taxes on profits if at least 90 percent of profits go to shareholders.

Lamar is expected to convert to a REIT this year. Although shareholders must still approve the switch, the company said the Internal Revenue Service has signed off on the conversion. The company completed the internal restructuring needed to comply with REIT rules in 2013.

Lamar released new metrics Wednesday used by investors to evaluate REITs.

The company reported Funds From Operations of $60.4 million, compared with $59.3 million a year ago. The company’s Adjusted Funds From Operations was $58.8 million, up from $50.2 million a year ago.

Those numbers have not been adjusted to reflect the lower tax expenses Lamar would have as a REIT.

REIT investors use Funds From Operations per share instead of earnings per share when evaluating the trusts. Without adjusting for the lower tax expense, Lamar’s FFO-per-share would have been 63 cents, based on the average 95,368,995 shares outstanding for the quarter.

However, Adjusted Funds From Operations, which include costs for maintaining the trust’s underlying assets, is considered a better predictor of a REIT’s ability to pay dividends, according to

Lamar’s AFFO-per-share was 62 cents per share.

Lamar said it expects second-quarter revenue to be in the range of $331 million to $334 million, an increase of 1 percent to 2 percent.

Lamar’s stock closed down 56 cents, or about 1 percent, Wednesday at $49.12.