Astral Media swings to Q4 loss

Broadcaster posts loss of $257.5 million

TORONTO -- Canadian broadcaster Astral Media on Tuesday swung to a huge fourth-quarter loss after it took a CAN$317.5 million ($299 million) noncash impairment charge to write down the value of its local radio station licenses.

Montreal-based Astral posted a loss of CAN$273.6 million ($257.5 million) for the three months to Aug. 31, against a profit of CAN$40 million in 2008. Earnings from continuing operations, excluding the one-time impairment charge, rose 7% to CAN$43.9 million ($41.5 million), from CAN$40.8 million last year.

Fourth-quarter revenue edged lower to CAN$219.4 million ($219 million), against CAN$230 million in 2008. TV revenue came to CAN$125 million ($117.7 million), against a year-earlier CAN$119.7 million, as higher subscriber growth after the launch of HBO Canada was offset by advertising revenue falling by 4%.

Radio revenue fell during the latest quarter to CAN$76 million ($71.5 million), from a year-earlier CAN$88.7 million.

Astral in 2007 paid CAN$1.1 billion to acquire rival Standard Radio to become the country's largest radio station operator.