EBITDA(1) for the three months ended March 31, 2013 was $4.4 million compared to $3.9 million for the same period last year, an increase of 11.8%. EBITDA(1) margin for the three months ending March 31, 2013 was 16.9%, compared to 14.5% in the same period last year.
FPLP's net earnings were $2.9 million for the three months ended March 31, 2013, compared to $2.3 million for the same period last year.
Finance costs for the three months ended March 31, 2013 decreased by $0.2 million compared to the previous year, primarily due to lower principal balances together with a reduction in interest rates resulting from the long-term loan renewal agreement effective the beginning of June 2012 and the elimination of the guarantee fee.
Cash available for distribution attributable to FPI(2) was $1.0 million or $0.150 per share for the three months ended March 31, 2013, compared to $0.4 million or $0.061 per share for the same period last year.
FPI declared dividends to shareholders of $1.0 million or $0.150 per share for the three months ended March 31, 2013 and the three months ended March 31, 2012.
May 2013 Dividend
FPI today announced a cash dividend of $0.05 per share, payable on June 28, 2013 to shareholders of record at the close of business on May 31, 2013.
Total advertising revenues for the first quarter were 5% lower than the prior year, partly due to two fewer publishing days. Early into the second quarter we have seen a small improvement in advertising revenues. Newsprint suppliers, which had not changed pricing since September 2010, implemented a small decrease in March which results in our average newsprint price decreasing by 2.7%.
We are required to have our actuarial consultants complete a valuation of the Winnipeg defined benefit pension plan as of December 31, 2012. This valuation will determine the minimum funding levels for the 2013 year. While this report has not yet been finalized, the preliminary findings are showing an increase in the solvency deficiency compared to the prior year due primarily to a decrease in the discount rate used to value the pension obligations. The preliminary findings are showing the estimated 2013 employer funding requirements will be approximately $0.5 million higher than the 2012 funding level. During the second quarter we will be completing the formal pension amendments required for implementing the changes agreed to in the newly completed Winnipeg collective bargaining agreement.
Preliminary discussions with the union representatives for the Brandon Sun are expected to start during the second quarter to work towards completing the renewal of these contracts, which expire on December 31, 2013.
During the second quarter our Winnipeg production staff will start working on a project to upgrade the press conveyor, which transfers printed papers from our presses into the packaging and distribution department. A refurbished used conveyor has been sourced for this upgrade and the total maintenance capital investment is $1.5 million. The board of directors of FPLP approved a strategic capital investment of $2.7 million to acquire a new high capacity inserting line to be installed in the Winnipeg packaging and distribution department. Expected payback on the investment is under two years, with the majority of savings coming from the consolidation of inserting functions that were previously being performed by an outside independent contractor. It is expected a new equipment lease will be arranged to finance this equipment, which is estimated to be operational before the end of this year.
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