Tribune Doubles Profits as Ad Slump Eases

By: Dave Carpenter, AP Business Writer

(AP) Tribune Co., whose properties include the Chicago Tribune and Newsday, reported a twofold increase in second-quarter earnings Thursday compared with the same period a year ago.

The newspaper publisher and broadcasting company earned $229.5 million, or 67 cents per share, compared with $114.2 million, or 33 cents a share, in same three-month period last year.

The reported results included a one-time gain of $32 million in the most recent quarter to adjust the value of certain investments, and a corresponding loss of $61 million in the same period a year ago.

Without those effects, earnings per share were 57 cents in the most recent period, even with the expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, and 52 cents per share in the year-ago period.

Revenues rose 5% to $1.45 billion from $1.38 billion.

Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune’s chief executive, said the results reflect “solid momentum” going into the second half of 2003. “The advertising environment is slowly but steadily improving and Tribune’s broadcasting and publishing groups are benefiting as a result,” he said.

The publishing unit recorded a 4.7% increase in operating profit on 2.9% higher revenue. Retail print advertising revenue rose 4%, although help-wanted ads showed a double-digit decline in a continuing reflection of a tough economy.

Costs for the newspaper division rose 2.3%, which the company attributed to higher newsprint prices, a lower pension credit and contingency expenses related to a possible strike at The Sun in Baltimore, where a contract was ultimately agreed to June 24. In response to an analyst’s question on the conference call, the company estimated those costs at $2 million to $3 million.

Tribune reported a strong quarter from television, where revenues climbed 12% and operating profit jumped 15%.

For the first six months, net income was $370.7 million, or $1.08 per share, compared with $12.6 million, or 2 cents a share, a year earlier when there was an accounting change. Revenues increased to $2.74 billion from $2.61 billion, up 5 percent.

Tribune owns 12 major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and Newsday, as well 26 TV stations.

Tribune shares, which have risen more than 20% in the past year, fell 51 cents to $46.49 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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