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Univision profits soar 65%

Company reports boffo 2004 result

MIAMI — It was a good year for Jerry Perenchio’s Univision Communications. Profits at the Spanish-lingo broadcast conglom jumped 65% to $255.9 million in 2004 from $155.4 million the prior year.

In the fourth quarter, Univision reported $67.2 million in net income, up 14% from $58.9 million a year earlier. Consolidated quarterly revenue rose 13% to $461.3 million from $408.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2003. Univision said it began to account for entities in which it has a variable interest as of March 31, 2004. Excluding those monies from the fourth-quarter results, net revenue rose just 6% to $432 million.

For the full year, consolidated net revenue increased 36% to $1.8 billion from $1.3 million in 2003. Taking out the income generated by its “variable interest entities” and accounting for its Sept. 22, 2003, acquisition of Dallas-based radio company Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. on a pro-forma basis, full-year net revenue increased 12% to $1.69 billion in 2004 from the pro-forma $1.5 billion a year earlier.

During the conference call with analysts Monday, Univision exec VP Andrew Hobson read a statement from Perenchio defending the procedure used for choosing new chief operating officer and prexy Ray Rodriguez. Perenchio said Rodriguez, whose appointment has generated some negative comments from program suppliers, was the best candidate based on his performance as president of Univision TV Networks, especially the 2002 launch of Telefutura.

In the core TV business, Rodriguez said the flagship Univision net maintains its lead and that the Telefutura net was closing the ratings and audience gap with NBC-owned Telemundo. But going forward, “we’re not just going to keep our lead but make more headway against the (English-lingo nets),” he said.

Univision also said it expects to close soon on its $190 million acquisition of stations in Puerto Rico. “We’re waiting for approval from the FCC,” Hobson told analysts.

Univision CFO Jeffrey Hinson noted that Univision will begin a $500 million stock buyback program this year, given the company’s free cash flow and some $189 million in cash on the balance sheet.

Results were released after the market closed Monday. Univision stock closed at $26.39, not much above its 52-week low of $25.80.

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