Tribune Earnings Stung by Circ Scandal, Debt Restructuring

By: Dave Carpenter, AP Business Writer

(AP) Tribune Co. reported a 58% drop in second-quarter earnings Thursday, citing a debt restructuring and the cost of an anticipated $35 million settlement with advertisers over circulation misstatements at two of its newspapers.

The company also said an internal investigation had identified additional circulation misstatements at the two papers — Newsday of Melville, N.Y., and Hoy, a Spanish-language newspaper in New York — which were punished this week by the Audit Bureau of Circulations for breaking circulation rules.

It said further misstatements had been uncovered for the same period where earlier problems were detailed — the 18 months that ended in March — in addition to misstatements affecting 2001 and 2002 numbers.

Tribune Chairman and CEO Dennis FitzSimons called the misstatements “unacceptable and wholly out of character.”

Net earnings for the April-through-June quarter were $96.4 million, or 29 cents a share, compared with $229.5 million, or 67 cents a share, for the same period a year earlier.

Excluding the pretax charges, which also included $17 million for the elimination of 375 positions, Tribune said operating earnings were 62 cents a share — a penny higher than the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenues for the quarter rose 3% to $1.5 billion from $1.45 billion.

For the first six months of 2004, net income was $217.1 million, or 64 cents a share, down 41% from $370.7 million, or $1.08 a share, a year earlier. Revenues climbed 3% to $2.83 billion from $2.74 billion.

Tribune’s holdings include 13 daily papers, more than two dozen television stations and the Chicago Cubs.

The company’s shares were off $1.27 at $41.85 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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