Tribune Co. shows first-quarter gain, says TV advertising rose despite war

April 17, 2003|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

CHICAGO - Tribune Co., owner of The Sun and 26 television stations, rebounded to a first-quarter profit as TV advertising rose 11 percent.

Net income was $141.2 million, or 41 cents a share, Tribune said in a statement yesterday. The company had a net loss of $101.6 million, or 33 cents, in the first quarter a year earlier because of expenses for writing down an acquisition's value. Sales rose 4.6 percent to $1.29 billion from $1.23 billion.

Tribune owns 16 WB network affiliates, whose entertainment programs were less vulnerable than rival networks to war-related ad cancellations.

"Their broadcasting business really did exceptionally well because the WB ratings were very high, and you don't have the news exposure you have with ABC, CBS or NBC affiliates," said Bob Goldsborough, an analyst at Ariel Capital Management, which owns 1.9 million Tribune shares among the $10 billion it invests.

Tribune's shares fell $1 to close at $48 yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange. They have risen 5.8 percent in the past 12 months.

Sales at the company's publishing unit rose 2.5 percent in the first quarter to $973.6 million from $950.1 million in the corresponding quarter of 2002.

Sales at Tribune's broadcasting unit rose 12 percent to $316.5 million from $283.5 million, the company said.

The loss in the quarter a year earlier followed a write-down in the value of newspapers bought from Times Mirror Co. in 2000. Those included the Los Angeles Times, The Sun and Newsday on Long Island in New York.

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