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Times Mirror Profit Up on Lower Costs, Papers’ Gains

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Times Mirror Co. on Wednesday reported an 80% increase in per-share earnings from continuing operations in 1996, thanks to lower costs combined with gains in newspaper advertising and circulation.

The better-than-expected performance by the Los Angeles-based news and information company, parent of The Times, stretched across all business segments.

“Led by the outstanding performance of our newspapers, Times Mirror in 1996 significantly exceeded its major financial objectives,” said Mark H. Willes, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Times Mirror.

“These results give us confidence that Times Mirror will meet its financial objectives in 1997,” Willes said.

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Income from continuing operations for 1996 rose to $204.7 million, or $1.51 per share, from $139.6 million, or 84 cents, in 1995. Income from continuing operations does not include gains from asset sales or one-time charges.

For the fourth quarter of 1996, income from continuing operations increased to $77 million, or 63 cents per share, from $57.1 million, or 42 cents, in the year-ago quarter.

Times Mirror posted 1996 net income of $206.4 million, or $1.53 per share. That included a $32-million after-tax gain on the sale of the company’s college publishing businesses and some other professional information companies. That gain was largely offset by $30.3 million in after-tax restructuring charges.

In 1995, net income was $1.23 billion, or $9.40 per share, which included a $1.63-billion gain on the sale of the company’s cable television business and $478.5 million in after-tax restructuring charges. The restructuring involved the closure of the New York edition of Newsday and about 3,000 layoffs at Times Mirror companies.

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Fourth-quarter net income in 1996 was $78.7 million, or 64 cents per share, contrasted with a net loss in the 1995 fourth quarter of $141.6 million, or $1.62.

Revenue for 1996 slipped to $3.4 billion from $3.45 billion in 1995. Fourth-quarter revenue declined to $871.4 million from $966.7 million.

Willes on Wednesday singled out strong performance by Times Mirror newspapers, particularly its two largest, The Times and Newsday, which both posted circulation growth for the first time in five years. The newspaper publishing segment achieved an operating profit margin in 1996 of 14.6%, the highest since 1989.

Analyst William B. Drewry, who follows Times Mirror for the PaineWebber investment firm, said the results reflect more than cost cutting.

“The Times Mirror story is not just a . . . restructuring,” Drewry said. “It is a multiyear turnaround in the way that the company is being managed, and that’s being reflected now in the ongoing numbers. I think you’ll see more of this in 1997 and beyond.”

In addition to The Times and Newsday, Times Mirror publishes the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant and other papers. It also publishes national and trade magazines as well as professional information for the legal, health sciences, aviation and training industries.


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