Trib coffers burst fourth, and for ’96

NEW YORK – Tribune Co. on Friday reported record cash flow for the fourth quarter and full year 1996, and said profits from broadcasting and entertainment operations improved during the latest quarter.

Fourth-quarter net income rose 26%, to $82 million, on revenues of $608 million, a 2% increase. For the full year, income rose 15%, to $283 million, on revenues of $2.4 billion, a gain of 7%, or 2% excluding acquisitions and divestitures.

B&E wing soars

The broadcast and entertainment sector earned a record $54 million in operating profit during the fourth quarter, a 24% increase that excludes a separate $10 million gain from the cancellation of an option by partly owned Qwest Broadcasting to acquire a TV station.

Operating profits from the TV business rose 13%, due to lower amortization of broadcast rights, while revenues rose 2% from the acquisition of KHTV Houston and KWSB San Diego during the year. With those new stations excluded, TV revenues were off 3%, and coupled with lower Chicago Cubs baseball revenues, the entire broadcast and entertainment sector’s operating revenues were flat in the quarter.

Tribune Entertainment’s performance was helped by the cancellation of talker “Charles Perez.”

For the year, the broadcasting and entertainment sector’s operating profits were up 19%, to a record $191 million, on operating revenues of $877 million, a 6% gain.

This year will see sharp revenue growth in the segment from the pending $1 billion buyout of Renaissance Broadcasting, due to be completed in February.

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