Group broadcaster Clear Channel Communications–whose stock has risen more than 25% over the last month– yesterday posted strong fourth-quarter earnings and recorded the best full-year operating results in its 20-year history.

The San Antonio-based company owns and operates six Fox-affiliated television stations in Tulsa, Wichita, Jacksonville, Mobile, Memphis and Little Rock, an independent TV station in Tucson and 25 radio stations.

Fourth-quarter boom

Clear Channel reported that fourth-quarter net income increased 74% to $ 1, 642,557 (17 cents a share) from $ 944,046 (10 cents a share) over the comparable period in 1991.

For the full year 1992, net income rose 281% to $ 4,293,000 (45 cents per share) compared to $ 1,125,000 (14 cents per share) for 1991. The company also achieved record sales with gross revenues increasing 44% to $ 94,472,000 from $ 74,142,000 in 1991.

Station operating income before depreciation and amortization increased 48% to $ 28,672,000 from $ 19,403,000 in 1991.

After-tax cash flow (defined as net income plus depreciation, amortization–except for film rights–and deferred taxes) increased 84% to $ 17, 118,000 from $ 9,300,000 in 1991. After-tax cash flow per share rose 61% to $ 1. 80.

Not well known

While Clear Channel’s stock has performed well over the last two years, it is not widely covered on Wall Street and is not well known by most investors.

That fact doesn’t take away from the positive story the company has to tell, said analyst Alan Gottesman of PaineWebber, who has been recommending Clear Channel for much of the past three years.

“This is what it looks like when you get it right,” he said. “This is a company that learned to be very successful in radio, where even in a middle-sized market you’ve got 25 competitors. TV is a piece of cake as long as you keep that competitive attitude; they’ve kept the attitude.”

And Clear Channel’s relative obscurity may be changing. Helping fuel the stock’s recent rise has been a buy recommendation instituted Jan. 12 by Alex Brown & Sons analyst Drew Marcus.

Marcus said Clear Channel has the best fourth quarter of all the broadcasting stocks he follows.

“The strong performance is the result of their optimal geographic distribution (18 markets) and the benefits they are deriving from the strength of Fox Broadcasting,” Marcus said. “Looking forward, they should be able to maintain their high growth as they make radio acquisitions to take advantage of the relaxed duopoly rules.”

To that end, Clear Channel also announced that it had closed the purchase of radio station KQXT-FM in San Antonio, Texas. Clear Channel already owns WOAI-AM and KAJA-FM in that market.

Clear Channel’s stock did not trade yesterday after the earnings were announced. It closed down 37.5 cents at $ 26 per share.

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