Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times, reported a 35.4 percent drop in fourth-quarter net income, attributed largely to charges for anticipated settlements related to misstated circulation figures at two New York papers and companywide layoffs.
Tribune said that while fourth-quarter advertising revenues had risen at the Times, circulation losses at the Los Angeles paper and Newsday in New York had dragged overall circulation revenues down 6 percent.
For the October-December period, the Chicago-based media giant, which also owns KTLA (Channel 5), reported net income of $214.7 million (67 cents per diluted share), compared with $332.4 million ($1), for the fourth quarter of 2004. Operating revenues were up 1 percent to $1.48 billion.
The company declined to offer a 2005 earnings forecast, citing "limited visibility" on economic conditions, circulation and audience shares.
Overall classified advertising revenue was up 5 percent for the quarter, with help-wanted ad revenue up 7 percent at the Times. Preprint ad revenues, which come from ads inserted to the paper, were up 8 percent overall, including a 17 percent increase at the Times.
The company said it was taking a $90 million charge for an anticipated settlement with advertisers related to overstated circulation at Newsday and its Spanish-language Hoy in New York.
Tribune also attributed lower publishing revenues to a 5 percent increase in newsprint prices and a 15 percent increase in the cost per ton of ink over 2003.
Separately, Tribune today petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court's decision blocking implementation of Federal Communications Commission rules that would have relaxed media company ownership rules.
The Bush administration yesterday declined to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Tribune shares were up 16 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $39.32 in midday trading.
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