Tribune Media Quarterly Earnings Beat Expectations

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The company that owns WGN America and other broadcasters is in the process of being acquired by TV station giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Tribune Media, the entertainment company that includes WGN America and other broadcasters, on Thursday reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter financials in what is likely to be its final earnings report before being acquired by TV station giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Tribune Media's fourth-quarter earnings from continuing operations reached $332.8 million, compared with $70.7 million in the year-ago period. Revenue fell 8 percent to $489 million. In the fourth quarter, the company recorded a tax benefit of $256 million, or $2.90 per share, "related to the re-measurement of deferred tax assets and liabilities resulting from the new tax legislation that lowered the corporate U.S. federal income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent."

Quarterly earnings per share from continuing operations reached $3.73, compared with 81 cents in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings per share from continuing operations amounted to 81 cents, compared with 85 cents.

Core advertising revenue, excluding political and digital revenue, increased 3 percent to $297.4 million, but overall television and entertainment net advertising revenue fell 15 percent to $326.2 million. Retransmission revenue increased 22 percent to $108.5 million, and carriage fee revenue rose 3 percent to $31.5 million.

"Looking ahead to 2018, while we are keenly focused on the completion of our pending merger, we also see growth opportunities in the core business, with the shift in our programming strategy at WGN America expected to turn that business into significant earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization contributor, and the highly contested midterm elections expected to drive a resurgence of political advertising revenue across our diverse footprint of stations," said Tribune Media CEO Peter Kern. "In addition, we expect to realize significant tax savings from the recent changes in the tax code on both our core business operations as well as on any potential gains from continued asset sales."

The company won't hold a conference call due to the planned Sinclair deal.