(AP) The E.W. Scripps Co. reported a 40% drop in first-quarter net earnings to $39.9 million compared to a year ago, when the company recorded an investment gain.
Net earnings per share for the three months ended March 31 were 50 cents, down from 83 cents a year ago, the company reported Wednesday.
Net income for the first quarter last year was $66.4 million, which included an after-tax gain from the exchange of an investment in Time Warner for America Online, which acquired Time Warner in January 2001.
Taking out the effect of the investment gain in the year-ago period, as well as an investment loss in the most recent quarter and other one-time factors, operating earnings rose in part because of growth in the company’s cable television networks.
Operating earnings were 56 cents per share, up 27% compared with an adjusted 44 cents during the same quarter a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call had projected earnings of 53 cents for the quarter just completed.
The results reflect growth of Scripps’ cable television networks, increasing profits of its Rocky Mountain News newspaper in Denver, lower interest rates, and stabilization of newspaper and television advertising.
Scripps said it has been able to cut costs by merging the business operations of the Rocky Mountain News with those of its competitor, The Denver Post, through a joint operating agreement begun last year.
“We’re seeing some signs that the economic recovery we’ve planned for may be under way,” said Kenneth W. Lowe, president and chief executive officer.
The company operates 21 daily newspapers, 10 broadcast TV stations, and four cable television channels: Home & Garden Television, Food Network, Do It Yourself Network, and Fine Living. It also operates Scripps Howard News Service; United Media, which licenses and syndicates the “Peanuts” and “Dilbert” comic strips; and 31 Web sites, including hgtv.com, foodtv.com, diynet.com, fineliving.com, and comics.com.
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