Tribune net income falls 30%; revenue up 21%

Tribune, owner of the L.A. Times, had an operating profit of $74 million, an 11% decline

Tribune Co. said Tuesday that its net income fell 30% in the first quarter, as gains in broadcast revenue were offset by double-digit publishing declines and higher expenses.

Net income was $41.1 million, or 41 cents a share, compared with $58.4 million, or 58 cents a share a year ago. Tribune, owner of the Los Angeles Times and other media properties, had an operating profit of $74 million, an 11% decline.

Total first-quarter revenue was $852 million, up 21% from the same quarter last year. The acquisition of Local TV increased revenue by nearly $145 million, the Chicago company said.

Operating expenses jumped 25% to $778 million.

"In the first quarter of 2014, we demonstrated early signs of the strength of our new broadcast scale," said Peter Liguori, Tribune's chief executive. "We are also encouraged by the activity we are seeing in the political landscape and its prospects for advertising for the second half of 2014."

Publishing revenue fell 3% to $454 million, with the largest declines at The Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun. Advertising revenue dropped 8%, with retail advertising accounting for most of the decline. Classified advertising was flat, and digital advertising increased 5% for the quarter.

Circulation revenue was flat in the first quarter, with higher sales of digital editions offset by print sales declines.

Publishing expenses were down 1%, but operating profit fell 17%, or $8 million, compared with the same quarter last year. Tribune Publishing, which includes The Times, the Tribune and six other daily newspapers, is set to spin off as a separate company in the next few months.

"Our newspapers continued to deliver very good results in a challenging environment, and we are confident in the prospects for that business as we move closer to spinning it off from Tribune Co.," Liguori said.

Bolstered by last year's acquisition of the Local TV station group, broadcasting revenue was up 67% to $398 million. The 19-station group, acquired in December in a $2.7-billion deal, accounted for nearly all of that increase.

Broadcasting advertising revenue increased 59%, or $113 million, with the Local TV stations bringing in $116 million of advertising revenue.

Overall, the company reduced staffing levels by 65 employees in the first quarter, down from a reduction of 70 in the first quarter last year.

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