Univision Earnings Rise on Advertising

Times Staff Writer

Univision Communications Corp., the nation's largest Spanish-language broadcaster, said Thursday that its fourth-quarter profit more than tripled.

Executives with the Los Angeles-based company also said they expected to win approval from federal regulators later this month for the $2-billion acquisition of radio chain Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. of Dallas.

Approval of the deal hit a snag this month when the Federal Communications Commission asked Univision to clarify its interest in a competing radio broadcaster.

Univision, controlled by Los Angeles billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio, earned $36.4 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $10.9 million for the final quarter of 2001.

The company earned 14 cents a share for the quarter, surpassing analysts' estimates, compared with 5 cents for the previous year.

The company's growth, executives said, was fueled by robust revenue from its television operations as more advertisers turned to Spanish-language TV outlets.

Revenue climbed 22% to $284.2 million, an increase from $233.8 million a year earlier. For the year, Univision's revenue increased 23% to nearly $1.1 billion.

"Univision turned in a record performance for 2002," Andrew Hobson, Univision's executive vice president, told analysts during a conference call. "Our rapid sales and audience growth mean that we continue to gain both audience and revenue share versus English-language television."

Hobson cautioned, however, that advertising sales at Univision's TV stations slowed this month as uncertain advertisers girded for war in the Middle East.

The company could lose $5 million in advertising revenue, he said, because of advertisers that are wary of promoting products during news coverage of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"It's hard to predict what's going to happen here, everything is so fluid," Hobson said.

Analysts said Univision's fourth-quarter cash flow was higher than expected, in part, because it delayed $23 million in planned capital spending for digital systems for its television stations.

Univision announced its earnings after the markets closed. Shares were up 66 cents to $26.06 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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