Tribune's 4Q Earnings Plummet 35%

By: (AP) Media giant Tribune Co. posted a 35% year-over-year decline in fourth-quarter earnings, hampered by still-sluggish advertising demand and costs associated with job cuts last year.

Net income for the October-through-December period was $214.7 million, or 67 cents per share, after $2 million in required preferred dividend payments, down from $332.4 million, or $1 per share, after nearly $6 million in preferred dividend payments a year earlier.

Excluding certain non-operating gains and losses, operating profits were 71 cents per share. That was a penny better than the estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenues rose to $1.48 billion from $1.47 billion, up 1%.

"The year just ended was a challenging one for our company, and our financial results reflect the uneven advertising environment as well as the impact of circulation misstatements at Newsday and Hoy in New York," said Tribune chairman and CEO Dennis FitzSimons.

The company, whose holdings include 11 leading daily newspapers and 26 television stations, took a $55 million charge earlier last year to pay advertisers for the inflated circulation totals at those two newspapers, which had the effect of increasing ad rates.

Results for the fourth quarter included a charge of 5 cents per share for 230 job cuts in the publishing division, a charge for the same amount on accounting for intangible assets and a gain of 6 cents per share from derivatives investments.

Revenue increased by 1% for Tribune's publishing unit, which includes the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and eight other major daily newspapers. But the company said circulation revenues were down 6%, mainly due to declines in Los Angeles and New York.

For the full year, net earnings after preferred dividend payments were $547.2 million, or $1.67 per share, down from $866.9 million, or $2.61 per share, in 2003. Revenues from operations were $5.73 billion, up from $5.59 billion.

Tribune shares rose 15 cents to $39.16 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.


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