Time Warner’s earnings nearly double

/ Source: The Associated Press

Time Warner Inc., the world’s largest media company, reported Friday that its fourth-quarter earnings nearly doubled from the same period a year ago, when results were dragged down by its Warner music division, which it later sold.

Time Warner — whose vast stable of media brands includes HBO, Warner Bros., CNN and People magazine — posted net earnings of $1.13 million, or 24 cents per share, compared with $639 million, or 14 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Revenues rose 1.9 percent to $11.11 billion from $10.90 billion in the same period a year earlier.

The year-ago results were dragged down by $466 million in losses from its Warner Music Group unit, which the company later sold to a group of private investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr., the former head of Seagram Co.

Excluding those losses as well as several one-time gains and losses, earnings before depreciation and amortization rose 2.9 percent to $2.43 billion from $2.36 billion in the same period a year ago, led by stronger results at the company’s cable TV division, which outweighed a slump at its Hollywood studios.

Also excluding one-time items, the company’s per-share earnings came in at 20 cents in the latest quarter, compared with 15 cents in the year-ago quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had expected earnings of 16 cents.

The company’s AOL division also posted a better quarter, reporting an 8 percent rise in profits to $326 million as revenues rose 1 percent. AOL continued to lose subscribers, however, and reported a subscriber count of 22.2 million domestic users, down 464,000 from the prior quarter and 2 million below year-ago levels.

At the same time, however, Time Warner continued to build up premium services in its cable TV group, adding 197,000 high-speed Internet subscribers in the quarter, bringing its total to 3.9 million. The company also said it now offers digital phone service in all its coverage areas and has signed up 220,000 subscribers.

For the full year, Time Warner earned $3.36 billion or 72 cents per share, up from $2.64 billion, or 57 cents per share, in the prior year. 2004 revenues rose 6.4 percent to $42.09 billion from $39.56 billion.