CME Q4 revenue slumps on ad woes

Time Warner-backed broadcaster sees revenue down 14%

COLOGNE, Germany -- Sluggish ad markets in central and Eastern Europe pulled down fourth-quarter results at Time Warner-backed broadcaster Central European Media Enterprises (CME).

Q4 revenue at CME was down 14% to $252.1 million and the group posted a net loss of $55.3 million for the quarter, ending Dec. 31. Consolidated net revenues for the full year were down 30% to $714 million while net loss attributable to CME shareholders was $97.2 million, compared to $269.5 million for 2008.

The group, in which Time Warner holds a 31% stake, believes the ad market bottomed out in 2009 and expects a 2%-6% increase in sales this year.

"An unprecedented economic crisis in our region reset TV ad spending 30% below 2008," said CME president and CEO Adrian Sarbu. "$800 million of TV ad spend vanished in one year, dramatically reducing our revenues."

Sarbu says the company is making the necessary adjustments to its portfolio to insure a return to profitability.

CME sold its underperforming Ukrainian TV operation in January. Last week, the company signed a $400 million deal to buy News Corp's Bulgarian television assets, particularly free-to-air channel bTV.

CME has also secured a new top numbers guy, hiring David Sach as CFO, effective March 1.