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Earnings Flat for Times Mirror

April 24, 1998|From a Times Staff Writer

Despite a 3.9% rise in revenue, Times Mirror Co. on Thursday reported flat earnings for its first quarter, roughly in line with analysts' expectations.

The Los Angeles-based news and information company, whose publications include the Los Angeles Times, said profits were dampened by softer-than-expected advertising revenue at The Times and increased spending aimed at building the paper's circulation.

Times Mirror's net income was $45.3 million, or 44 cents per share, on revenue of $803.9 million. That compares with net income of $45.2 million, or 36 cents per share, on revenue of $773.9 million for the same quarter last year.

The gain in earnings per share mainly reflected a decrease in the number of Times Mirror shares outstanding and a reduction in required preferred dividends resulting from last year's financial restructuring of the company.

Times Mirror Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Mark H. Willes said a "very strong" first quarter for the company's Eastern newspapers was offset by The Times' performance.

Still, Willes, who also is publisher of The Times, said the parent company expects to meet its 1998 financial objectives.

Willes added that the company is optimistic that the divestiture of its Mosby/Matthew Bender legal and medical publishing unit will be completed "with a minimum of dilution to ongoing results." He told analysts that he expected to make an announcement this quarter about a deal involving the unit, which was put up for sale in November.

Times Mirror also reported that circulation grew over the six-month period ended March 31 at its three biggest dailies: The Times, Newsday in Long Island, N.Y., and The Baltimore Sun. At The Times, the company reported average daily circulation of 1,095,007, up nearly 2.5%. The Times' Sunday circulation rose 1.7% to 1,385,373.

Times Mirror's largest business segment, newspaper publishing, posted a 6.1% rise in revenue to $542.9 million, largely reflecting increased advertising revenue. The company's operating profit from newspaper publishing, however, fell 5.4% to $90.2 million primarily because of a 26% increase in newsprint costs.

The second-largest unit of Times Mirror, its professional information segment, posted a 19.1% rise in operating profit to $20.9 million on revenue that inched up 0.4% to $191.6 million. The gains in operating profit were attributed to improved performance at Achieve-Global, a training company, and Krames Communications Inc., a publisher of consumer-oriented health information.

Times Mirror's announcement came after the close of stock trading. Its stock closed Thursday at $59.75 on the New York Stock Exchange, down 31 cents.

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