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Biz Briefs

Feb 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard Parsons last week declared the company victorious in regaining its financial strength, calling 2003 a “reset year” in which the company achieved all of its goals, including paring down its debt load to $20 billion nearly a year ahead of schedule.
His comments came as the media titan reported that it swung to a 2003 profit of $2.6 billion, or 59 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $98.7 billion, or $22.15 a share. Revenue in 2003 climbed 6 percent to $39.6 billion.
Time Warner’s largest division, Time Warner Cable, saw its revenue rise 9 percent for the year as the unit reported strong subscription growth due to the popularity of high-speed data and digital video services. Meanwhile, the company’s networks division, which includes its cable channels as well as The WB Network, reported a 10 percent jump for the year, largely due to higher subscription rates at the Turner cable networks and HBO. The group also saw advertising revenues rise and realized incremental revenue from ancillary sales of HBO series.
Sony’s Third-Quarter Profits Sink
Consumer electronics and media giant Sony said last week that its fiscal third-quarter profit sank 26 percent to 92.6 billion yen ($873.2 million), as costs associated with the company’s massive restructuring and declines at its Sony Pictures Entertainment offset gains at the company’s consumer electronics operations. Revenue at the Tokyo-based company rose just shy of 1 percent to 2.32 trillion yen ($21.9 billion). The company’s pictures unit, which includes film and television operations, recorded a 30 percent drop in revenue for the quarter to 181.1 million yen ($1.7 million), hurt by lower home-entertainment revenues and difficult comparisons created by the presence of the blockbuster “Spider-Man” in the year-ago quarter. Operating income for the period tumbled 82 percent to 5.6 million yen ($52,824).
Nexstar Examines Legal Options After Failed Deal
A source close to Nexstar Broadcasting said the station group continues to examine its legal options after Liberty Corp. and its leased marketing agreement partner GNS Media failed to close their $43 million purchase of Nexstar Fox affiliate WTVW-TV in Evansville, Ind. The source said that as recently as the Christmas holidays, officials at Irving, Texas-based Nexstar believed that Liberty, which owns 15 TV stations, and GNS would close the sale in the first quarter. Nexstar executives are said to have no idea why Liberty and GNS backed out of the deal. Nexstar said in a statement it intends to keep the station running and will suffer no financial impact because of the failed sale. Nexstar acquired the station as part of its $230 million purchase of Quorum Broadcasting in December. Liberty Chief Financial Officer Howard Schrott did not return a call for comment before press time.
Hearst-Argyle to Acquire WMTW-TV
Station group Hearst-Argyle Television said last week it has struck a deal to acquire ABC affiliate WMTW-TV in Portland, Maine, for $37.5 million from WMTW Broadcast Group as part of a broader strategy at the company to extend its reach in New England. The station, which covers the Portland-Auburn, Maine, television market, joins three other Hearst-Argyle stations in the region: WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H.; WNNE-TV in Burlington-White River Junction, Vt.; and WCVB-TV in Boston.
Vivendi Drops Suit Against Messier
Vivendi Universal said last week it is withdrawing its French lawsuit against deposed former Chairman Jean-Marie Messier and former Chief Operating Officer Eric Licoys over a disputed severance claim. The Paris-based conglomerate’s decision to withdraw the lawsuit follows settlements reached by Mr. Messier, Mr. Licoys and Vivendi Universal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over securities violations committed during Mr. Messier’s tenure.