Company's third quarter up 7% to $201 million

MEXICO CITY — Buoyed by Olympic Games coverage, Mexico’s No. 2 broadcaster TV Azteca announced a 7% gain in net sales to $201 million in the third quarter this year.

The conglom saw a nominal 2% bump in year-to-year operating income to $78.8 million, while net income jumped 12% to $37.8 million. With the peso undergoing heavy volatility lately, all figures reflect a running average exchange rate of 13 pesos to the dollar.

Azteca prexy Mario San Roman pointed to “attractive programming options” and “solid coverage” of the Beijing Games as key factors.

“The popularity of our content translated into a 39% full day share of the commercial audience in the quarter, which resulted in solid demand for advertising spaces in all of the time slots, and increased sales,” added San Roman.

Reported revenue includes sales from the recently absorbed Proyecto 40 channel ($2.85 million) as well as sales from the web’s U.S. network Azteca America, which saw a 14% fall in sales to $9.23 million blamed on the U.S. economic downturn.

Sales to other countries saw a steep 46% drop to $1.1 million.

Costs and expenses grew 10% due to a 12% jump in production and transmission costs to $99.8 million related to pricey Olympics coverage and the consolidation of Proyecto 40. These were offset by administrative efficiency gains.

Azteca’s operating income was helped by a strong portfolio that includes $249 million, resulting in exchange gains with the devalued peso. The web also noted that it holds no exchange rate derivative instruments, which have been blamed for the current market freefall.

The conglom gave its analysis for the first three quarters of the year, showing $531 million in net sales to date, up 5% on 2007. However, it saw a whopping 77% drop in net income due to a massive income tax hit in the first quarter and the absorption of operating expenses for Proyecto 40.

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