Telephone directory provider in P.R., DR files for bankruptcy

Written by  //  May 4, 2011  //  Telecommunications/Technology  //  No comments

Telephone directories may be on their last legs as consumers turn increasingly more to online versions.

Squeezed by a decline in demand for its print telephone directories as consumers and advertisers turn their attention to online and mobile versions of the bulky book, Caribe Media Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday in Delaware.

Caribe Media is the majority owner of Axesa Servicios de Información, which publishes the “official” yellow and white pages directories in Puerto Rico.

The company also offers Internet-based local search services, including the SuperpagesPR.com directory, which complements the services offered through the traditional paper version of the residential and commercial listings.

In an interview with News is my Business, Joe Pelitteri, vice president of Axesa in Puerto Rico, said the bankruptcy case will not affect the local business, which he said is not included in the filing. He also noted that its subsidiaries in the Dominican Republic, which also publish yellow and white pages directories, are also exempt from the filing.

“The filing concerned the holding company, Caribe Media, which is looking to restructure its debt,” Pelitteri said. “There are no operational entities included in the filing, so there is no operational impact.”

“We will continue to conduct business as usual at Axesa, Caribe Dominicana and LIM Dominicana – which for us means a singular focus on serving our customers and achieving our business objectives,” he further added.

In its bankruptcy filing, Caribe Media listed assets and liabilities of some $500 million, as Bloomberg reported. However, company officials refrained from confirming the number.

While Caribe Media’s bankruptcy is not expected to put an end to the phone book in Puerto Rico, as opposed to what has happened in many stateside homes where the bulky publication ends up as a fixture on kitchen counters, refrigerator tops and junk drawers.

The Axesa Telephone directories are alive and well,” Pelitteri said. “The most recent independent study conducted showed 82 percent of adults indicated having an Axesa telephone directory in the home. The same study showed that 76 percent of that same group used the Axesa directories in the last year.”

Web-based directories trump paper versions
Due to declining interest and use of the paper listings, telecommunications industry regulators have given companies serving several states, including New York, Florida and Pennsylvania, the go-ahead to stop printing the residential white pages. To win their case, phone companies have argued that most consumers now check the Internet or mobile versions of the directories rather than flip through the voluminous books.

“Fewer people rely on paper directories for a variety of reasons: more people rely solely on cell phones, whose numbers typically aren’t included in the listings; more listings are available online; and mobile phones and caller ID systems on land lines can store a large number of frequently called numbers,” the Associated Press reported in November 2010.

In doing away with the directories reduces the provider’s environmental impact by using less paper and ink, and likely represents a benefit to their bottom lines by cutting out the costs of the service, the AP story said.

However, that does not seem to be the case in Puerto Rico, where lower computer and broadband penetration keep the need latent for paper directories. Pelitteri said, nevertheless, that its online and mobile products represent growth opportunities for the business.

Axesa is getting ready to launch a revamped version of its digital directories on May 23, the executive disclosed.

The first telephone directory was published in 1878 in New Haven, Conn. In Puerto Rico, consumers have been using the familiar publication for more than 90 years; Axesa’s directory did not face local competition until the launching of Infopáginas a few years ago.

But as has been happening stateside, island consumers and businesses are increasingly turning to the Internet to find the information they need, and advertise. SuperpagesPR.com reportedly saw a 42 percent growth in terms of activity registered on its site between 2008 and 2009, when it logged 7 million visits.


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