NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Publisher Primedia Inc. said Thursday that it plans to sell its educational unit, including Weekly Reader children's magazine, in an attempt to reduce its debts.
Primedia (PRM), whose titles include Seventeen, New York and Modern Bride, also reported a first-quarter loss that was much greater than anticipated.
The company posted a net loss of 41 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended March 31, compared with a loss of 25 cents per share in the year-ago quarter. First Call Corp., which tracks corporate results, had predicted a loss of 18 cents per share for the latest quarter.
The company posted an operating loss of $3.3 million, compared with an operating profit of $24.3 million a year ago. On a net basis, which includes interest payments on the company's debt, the publisher lost $46 million in the latest quarter compared with a loss of $9.7 million a year ago.
For the three months, sales from continuing businesses rose 25.1 percent to $411.1 million.
New York-based Primedia said the sale of its educational titles will better focus the company on consumer and business-to-business magazines. Besides Weekly Reader, other titles to be sold include American Guidance Service and Primedia Reference.
"We have built our supplemental education group into one of the finest and largest groups in the U.S. today," Chairman and CEO William F. Reilly said. "However, it is not central to our targeted media focus and its divestiture will enable us to reduce our leverage and further clarify our objectives as a targeted media company."
Primedia said it has hired Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to handle the sale.
The company is keeping its Channel One network, a news channel beamed into schools daily.
The company's shares were down 3/8 at 17-3/8 in early afternoon trading Thursday.