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Viacom 3Q Profit Jumps on Music Sale

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SETH SUTEL | November 2, 2007 06:49 PM EST | AP

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NEW YORK — Viacom Inc., a media conglomerate that owns MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures, reported an 80 percent jump in third-quarter earnings Friday on a strong showing from its summer movie "Transformers" and the sale of a music publishing business.

Viacom said it wouldn't see a big impact in the event of a Hollywood writers' strike, except for late-night spoof artists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, whose shows would go to reruns.

CEO Philippe Dauman told analysts on a conference call that the company's Paramount studio had an ample pipeline of movies, but that the company would "evaluate" what to do in the time slots of Stewart's and Colbert's shows on Comedy Central if a strike occurs.

In addition to Paramount and Comedy Central, Viacom owns a large stable of cable channels including MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon. Like its former sister company CBS Corp., its shareholder vote is controlled by Sumner Redstone.

Viacom earned $641.6 million, or 96 cents per share, in the three months ending in September, up from $356.8 million, or 50 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. The latest results included a $192 million gain from the sale of Famous Music, a music publishing business.

Excluding that and other one-time items including a $3 million restructuring charge in the latest quarter and compensation charges of $62 million in the year-ago period following the departure of Tom Freston as CEO, adjusted operating income rose 14 percent to $818 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 Class B shares rose $1.17, or 2.9 percent, to close at $41.58 Friday.

Revenues rose 24 percent to $3.27 billion from $2.63 billion a year ago and ahead of analysts' estimates of $2.99 billion.

Viacom used to be combined with CBS Corp., but the two companies split up in the beginning of 2006.

The breakup 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. Viacom's shares are now trading at about the same level as when the split happened, while CBS's are up about 6 percent.

Viacom's filmed entertainment division swung to a profit of $71.7 million in the latest period from a loss of $7.8 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. A 9 percent rise in revenues to $2 billion, were offset by a 13 percent rise in expenses, largely due to programming and compensation.