Merck earns a penny less per share

Ericsson's sales dive 38%

Avon's profit falls 21%

Media General rebounds

October 19, 2002

Merck & Co. Inc. posted a 3 percent decline in third-quarter profit as sharply higher costs for materials and production, and more research and development spending, offset solidly higher sales.

The maker of the cholesterol drug Zocor and Pepcid for ulcers said third-quarter net income was $1.88 million, or 83 cents a share, down from $1.95 billion, or 84 cents a share, in the third quarter last year. The latest results matched the consensus forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenues were up 8 percent to $12.89 billion from $11.92 billion a year earlier.

The company said it expects earnings this year to be $3.14 a share, the same as last year's. The drug maker expects double-digit growth in earnings per share in its core pharmaceutical business next year.

In the first nine months of the year, net income also dipped 3 percent, to $5.26 billion, or $2.31 a share, from $5.42 billion, or $2.33 a share, last year. Revenue rose nearly 8 percent, to $37.8 billion from $35.2 billion.

LM Ericsson

The world's largest supplier of cellular phone network equipment posted a third quarter loss of about $540 million as sales tumbled 38.5 percent.

The Swedish company said its loss of nearly 5 billion kronor in the three months that ended Sept. 30 compared with a net loss of 3.96 billion kronor in the same period last year.

Sales in the period fell to 33.5 billion kronor ($3.6 billion) from 54.5 billion kronor last year.

Avon Products Inc.

The world's largest direct seller of beauty products said its third-quarter earnings fell 21 percent because of a previously disclosed restructuring charge.

The New York company said earnings before items were in line with Wall Street forecasts as strength in Europe and the United States offset weakness in Latin America.

Avon earned $90.3 million, or 38 cents a share, on revenue of $1.46 billion. In last year's quarter, it earned $114.6 million, or 48 cents a share on revenue of $1.42 billion.

The latest results included a charge of $25.2 million, or 10 cents a share, related to job cuts and other cost-saving measures. Excluding items, Avon earned 48 cents a share, a penny more than analysts estimated.

Media General Inc.

The Richmond, Va.-based newspaper and television company earned $9.5 million, or 41 cents a share, in the quarter that ended Sept. 29, in contrast with a loss of $736,000, or 3 cents a share, in the third quarter last year.

The latest results beat the consensus forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call by 4 cents a share.

Revenue rose 4.2 percent to $201.2 million from $193.1 million in last year's quarter. Publishing revenues were 2.1 percent lower than they were a year ago, but broadcasting revenues rose 16.8 percent, driven by strong sales of political advertising in addition to growth in automobile, services and entertainment ads.

AK Steel Holding Corp.

The steelmaker reported a third-quarter loss of $3.3 million because of the early payback of debt, but the loss was smaller than the one a year ago, and its earnings before charges beat Wall Street expectations.

The steelmaker's loss amounted to 3 cents a share in the July-September period, compared with a loss of $5.9 million, or 6 cents a share, for the third quarter last year.

In the latest quarter, the company took a $19.9 million charge, or 18 cents a share, related to the redemption of debt due in 2006. Without that expense, AK Steel earned $16.6 million, or 15 cents a share, in the quarter that ended Sept. 30.

Biogen Inc.

The biotechnology company reported a 40 percent drop in third-quarter profits and blamed slowing sales of its multiple sclerosis drug Avonex.

Biogen earned $42 million, or 28 cents a share, in the July-September period, down from $70 million, or 46 cents a share, in the third quarter a year ago. Revenue increased by 8.3 percent to $288 million from $264 million a year ago.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this article.

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