Par’s figures babe-a-licious

Paramount Communications Inc. capped its fiscal year with a dramatic leap in profits, buoyed by record publishing results, film hits such as “Wayne’s World” and its strong stable of firstrun syndication TV shows.

For the fiscal year ended Oct. 31, Par posted net income of $ 261.4 million ( $ 2.19 a share), more than double the $ 122.2 million ($ 1.03) turned in the year before.

Revenues were up 9.2% to $ 4.26 billion, from $ 3.9 billion.

Operating income at the entertainment division, which includes Par’s film and television operations, grew more than four-fold to $ 279.6 million from $ 66.2 million, in large measure on the success of several features and homevideo titles, like “Ghost” and “The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear.”

A major contributor for the year, however, was Par’s publishing unit, Simon & Schuster. It posted record operating income for the year, with a 16.5% increase to $ 182 million.

Also a plus was Madison Square Garden, which turned in improved operations as a result of a completed makeover–and the Democratic National Convention.

“The refurbishment helped make a $ 30 million swing in the year, from a loss to a profit,” said Jessica Reif at Oppenheimer & Co.

Overall results, analysts said, were in line with expectations. The stock closed unchaged at $ 42.875.

Despite a meager film slate for the fiscal fourth quarter, the company recorded a net profit of $ 101.4 million (85 cents), up 17.85% from $ 83.3 million (70 cents) in the comparable period last year.

Revenues were up 3.1% to $ 1.2 billion, from $ 1.16 billion in the same quarter last year.

Included in the results was a one-time charge of $ 8.8 million (8 cents), as a result of the early redemption of $ 175 million in senior notes.

Operating income for the entertainment group was an estimated $ 54 million, up about 130% from $ 23.3 million in the same quarter last year.

The quarter’s numbers included for the first time the new theme park division , which contributed an estimated $ 10 million to $ 12 million in earnings.

“Atop that, they are very profitable in firstrun syndication and homevideo, including ‘Wayne’s World,’ ” said Reif.

Paramount Television produces such top-rated syndicated shows as “The Arsenio Hall Show,””Hard Copy” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Television is expected to be a significant booster for earnings this year as well. According to analysts, early ratings for the new “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” indicate a potential hit that could generate as much as 20 cents per share , or $ 24 million, for the first year.

“If the series can match its opening numbers,” said PaineWebber analyst Chris Dixon, “each episode can generate $ 1 million in net cash, after production costs.”

Now, Wall Street is poised to see box office receipts in the third and fourth fiscal quarters when such pictures as “Indecent Proposal,””The Firm” and “The Coneheads” are scheduled.

One reason for the jump ahead by analysts is that first-half comparisons will be tough for the company. In 1992, Paramount led with “Addams Family,””Wayne’s World” and “Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country.”

“Given the outlook for ‘The Firm’ and ‘Coneheads,’ ” said Ed Hatch of UBS Securities Inc., “there’s every expectation Paramount will improve its market share over what it posts through the first half.”

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