Tribune Swings to Third-Quarter Profit

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Tribune CEO Peter Liguori

The company said revenue declined 5 percent, with expenses dropping 7 percent, but CEO Peter Liguori said the results did not meet his team's expectations.

Tribune Co., the owner of the LA Times, Chicago Tribune and TV stations, on Monday reported improved third-quarter earnings as lower expenses more than offset a revenue decline.

The company, led by CEO Peter Liguori, reported earnings of $49.8 million, compared with a year-ago loss of $30.6 million. The year-ago figure was dragged down by lower operating profit and reorganization-related losses.

Third-quarter operating profit came in at $69 million, up from $56 million in the third quarter of 2012. The company cited lower expenses, partially offset by a revenue decline. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, another metric of profitability, came in at $118 million, compared to $99 million in the year-ago quarter.

Revenue of $695 million declined 5 percent from the year-ago period, but expenses fell 7 percent. For the latter, it cited "the non-cash impact of the adoption of fresh-start reporting [which lowered some pension and depreciation expense] as well as overall cost reductions." 

Broadcasting revenue of $248 million was down 6 percent, "primarily as a result of a $9 million decrease in advertising revenue and a reduction in the estimated value of barter programming," the firm said. Publishing revenue fell 4 percent.

“While we are pleased with the progress we have made on key strategic initiatives in the third quarter, our financial results in the period did not meet our expectations”, said Liguori. “We are taking targeted actions to position our broadcasting stations for profitable growth and look forward to consummating the pending acquisition of Local TV."

Tribune earlier this year agreed to acquire the 19 TV stations of Local TV in a $2.73 billion deal.

Liguori also said: "Our publishing business has continued to perform well" despite some revenue declining. "Importantly, we are developing compelling original programming content, improving the capabilities of our digital assets, expanding our efforts to increase [other] revenue and increasing the profitability and cash flows of our equity investments and real estate portfolio."