RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Yellow pages and online search publisher R.H. Donnelley shed hundreds of millions of dollars in value Thursday as Wall Street slaughtered RHD shares to the tune of 48 percent.

Yet the bloodbath would not have been predicted had one based buying decisions based on the press release about the Cary-based company’s quarterly and year-end results.

Here are the headlines from the release RHD (NYSE: RHD) posted before the markets opened and the slaughter began Thursday:

“R.H. Donnelley Delivers Strong 2007 Results and Exceeds Free Cash Flow Guidance

– “Grows Ad Sales in Fourth Quarter

– “Generates Operating Cash Flow of $692 Million

– “Revises 2008 Outlook to Reflect Softer Economy

– “Decides Not to Initiate Dividend”

In journalism terms, the company buried the “lede,” or most important news.

1. RHD trimmed its revenue forecast for 2008.

2. RHD would not pay a dividend; instead it is going to focus on repaying debt.

Plus, RHD’s president for its Web-based efforts quit. That news wasn’t disclosed until far down in a long release, and it wasn’t even set off with bold face or special type treatment.

However, Jake Winebaum’s departure is big news. He founded and sold to RHD last year for more than $300 million in cash. He was head of RHDi, the interactive business unit. RHD is banking heavily on a “triple play” of mixing yellow pages and online directories to win business in a rapidly changing world. Yet out he goes.

In these days when conventional print newspapers and directories are going the way of the albatross, the news that RHD’s top Web kingpin was leaving to spend more time with his family only worsened the outlook for the company

When the markets began, the bloodletting began. And it didn’t stop until 4 p.m. when RHD closed at its lowest share value in at least 12 ½ years, according to Bloomberg.

The stock had already surrendered a tremendous amount of value over the past year (a 52-week high of $84.49.)

RHD’s forecast, earnings and dividend decision certainly didn’t impress JP Morgan analyst Frederick Searby. He cut RHD stock to neutral from overweight.

What in the world will happen today? Well, RHD could rebound. Its earnings weren’t bad, and the revenue forecast didn’t slice billions in revenue. Buyers today may see RHD as a very undervalued stock and dive back in.

But Feb. 28 will long be remembered as bloody Thursday. As The News & Observer aptly described the slaughter, Wall Street sent RHD to the shredder.