Belo ad bucks beef up

Co. sees modest growth in revs, operating earnings

NEW YORK — Earnings at TV station and newspaper owner Belo Corp. slipped in the second quarter but came in modestly ahead of Wall Street’s expectations as company execs said the light at the end of the ad-drought tunnel seemed to be coming closer.

Belo, which owns 19 stations and four daily papers, pulled in $39.4 million in net income, down 3% from last year’s $40.5 million, which included roughly $2.3 million in residual gains from assets sold in 2000. Revenues rose modestly to just under $370 million.

Belo topper Robert W. Decherd touted the company’s modest growth in revenue and operating earnings (which inched up 0.7%) as proof of Belo’s ability to execute even during tough times. He added that the outlook is brighter for the rest of the year.

“As the third quarter gets underway, we believe there is a glimmer of optimism in the marketplace overall as evidenced by stock market gains in recent weeks, the strong network upfront and continued new product introductions by advertisers,” he said.

Looking to the third quarter, Belo execs said they expected a modest uptick as the spot-ad market for August was showing a modest pickup. One blemish on the outlook, however, was political advertising, which is seen falling to $2 million from $11.5 million last year.

Separately, Belo said it will boost its dividend by 27% to 9.5¢ per share. The increase will take effect on Sept. 5 for shareholders of record as of Aug. 15. Decherd said the move restores a company policy that was interrupted after the 9/11 attacks as Belo retooled its cost structure.

Belo shares finished the week’s trading at $22.29, up 1.6% from the previous day.

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