Satcaster back in black

Clear Channel is listening to some happy news, as the company announced a profit for the fourth-quarter after a dismal Q4 last year.

Country’s largest radio chain reported net income of $461 million for the period, a huge turnaround from the comparable quarter in 2004, when it lost $4.67 billion.

Clear Channel’s revenue did drop 1% to $1.76 billion in this year’s fourth-quarter, as its radio division was comparatively weak. Revenue dropped 6% in that part of the company’s biz.

The slip came in part because of a decision to limit the sale of commercial minutes. The commercial-radio giant adopted the policy to compete with the commercial-free programming of satellite radio.

Clear Channel execs said in a call with analysts they would continue their stance despite revenue losses, a la Blockbuster’s decision to continue to eliminate late fees so it could compete with Netflix despite the adverse effect on revenues.

Clear Channel had a busy holiday frame, spinning off its concert-promotion biz and issuing an IPO for a 10% stake of its outdoor-advertising division. The spinoff allowed for tax writeoffs that led to significant refunds, which aided the bottom line.

Still, the company would have been in the black in the recent quarter by more than $180 million even without the tax benefits.

Comparison is also a little skewed because some losses in Q4 of 2004 were attributable to new SEC regulations over how Clear Channel values licenses.

For the full year, the company turned a profit of $935.7 million in 2005 after losing $4 billion in 2004.

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