Viacom Inc. on Friday reported a $431-million loss in the first quarter due to costs stemming from its acquisition of a controlling interest in Paramount Communications Inc.
Analysts saw no surprises in the results, which included one month of Paramount operations and $332 million in charges related to Viacom’s March purchase of 50.2% of Paramount after its takeover battle with QVC Inc. In its announcement, Viacom reported revenue of $878.4 million for the quarter ended March 31.
Chief Financial Officer George S. Smith Jr. said in an interview that some of the charges involve devaluing some of Viacom’s own programming assets in the wake of the Paramount merger. For example, he said, movies Viacom has been packaging together and selling may be worth less because the company will now put more effort into selling the more valuable films contained in Paramount’s rich library.
Analyst Christopher Dixon at PaineWebber Inc. said the merger-related charges are in line with projections. Viacom and analysts also said the results are not comparable to those of previous periods because of the Paramount deal and that future results will be distorted for some time while Viacom acquires the remaining Paramount stake and digests the acquisition.
“The numbers are kind of irrelevant until you get into the fourth quarter and even into next year,” said Jeffrey Logsdon, Seidler Cos. managing director.
Viacom said that, without the merger charges, its operations showed a $57-million profit. Its MTV Networks unit, which includes MTV, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite and VH-1, was especially strong, with revenue climbing 30% and earnings from operations jumping 21% compared to a year earlier.
In the year-earlier quarter, Viacom as a whole reported a profit of $81 million on revenue of $470.7 million.
Viacom’s latest results included Paramount revenue of $375.8 million and a loss from operations of $41.1 million for Paramount, due to factors such as a seasonal drop in book sales by Simon & Schuster, whose educational book business is strongest in the fall.
Paramount Entertainment’s loss from operations of $35 million reflects sluggish film operations in March, when the company released the box office disappointment “Jimmy Hollywood.”
Viacom said it will report a pretax gain of about $267 million in the second quarter related to its April sale of its one-third interest in LifeTime Television to partners Capital Cities/ABC and Hearst Corp.
In a statement, Viacom Chief Executive Frank Biondi Jr. said the “main structural issues and associated costs are clearly behind us.”
Chairman Sumner Redstone said the company is “already well-advanced in the implementation of the long-range strategies and opportunities” in the deal.
Viacom and cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. are in discussions to form a cable television partnership. Smith declined to comment on the status of those talks.
Viacom Class A shares closed down 25 cents at $29.50 on the American Stock Exchange.