Source AP ©

Viacom earnings up 80 percent

An 80 percent jump in 3 quarter earnings was reported by Viacom Inc., a media conglomerate controlled by Sumner Redstone.

Philippe Dauman, Viacom's CEO, told analysts on a conference call that the company was "very well-positioned" in the event of a strike by Hollywood writers, particularly at its Paramount studio, which he said had a well-stocked pipeline of movies.

Two shows that would be affected, Dauman said, are Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report," which are more topical and thus rely more on writers. In the event of a strike, those shows would go to reruns and then the company will "evaluate what to do in those time slots," Dauman said.

Viacom, which also owns MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon, earned $641.6 million (EUR443.12 million), or 96 cents per share, in the three months ending in September, up from $356.8 million (EUR246.43 million), or 50 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

The latest results included a $192 million (EUR132.61 million) gain from the sale of Famous Music, a music publishing business.

Excluding that and other one-time items including a $3 million (EUR2.07 million) restructuring charge in the latest quarter and compensation charges of $62 million (EUR42.82 million) in the year-ago period following the departure of Tom Freston as CEO, adjusted operating income rose 14 percent to $818 million (EUR564.96 million), or 65 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of 59 cents per share. Those estimates typically exclude one-time items. Viacom's shares rose $1.43, or 3.5 percent, to $41.84 in morning trading.

Revenues rose 24 percent to $3.27 billion (EUR2.26 billion) from $2.63 billion (EUR1.82 billion) a year ago and ahead of analysts' estimates of $2.99 billion (EUR2.07 billion).

Viacom used to be combined with CBS Corp., but the two companies split up in the beginning of 2006. Redstone still controls the shareholder votes of both companies.

The breakup of Viacom and CBS was aimed at allowing investors to value Viacom's cable network-heavy portfolio separately from CBS, which has a large broadcast TV business as well as a radio and outdoor advertising arm. Since then, Viacom's shares have slipped 2.8 percent, while CBS's have gained 7.9 percent.

Viacom's filmed entertainment division swung to a profit of $71.7 million (EUR49.52 million) in the latest period from a loss of $7.8 million (EUR5.39 million) a year ago as revenues jumped 57 percent.

Viacom attributed the turnaround largely to box office revenues from "Transformers," which opened in July and recently was released on DVD, as well as a 39 percent rise in home video revenues due to a greater number of titles in release versus the same period a year earlier.

Earnings from cable networks edged up 2 percent to $796.8 million (EUR550.31 million). A 9 percent rise in revenues to $2 billion (EUR1.38 billion), were offset by a 13 percent rise in expenses, largely due to programming and compensation.

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