Tougher times for TV Azteca

Broadcaster reports $59 mil loss in first quarter

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s No. 2 broadcaster TV Azteca posted a year-on-year net loss of 625 million pesos ($59 million) in the first quarter of 2008 as higher taxes and changes in Mexico’s financial reporting standards bit into the bottom line.

Net sales were up just 1% to $176 million in the period, the conglom reported Wednesday, while operating profit fell 13% to $51 million.

Sales at Stateside web Azteca America fell to $9.8 million from $11.8 million a year ago, hit by adverse economic conditions in the U.S.

Results were not helped by the fact that Easter fell in the quarter, a traditional time for Mexicans to turn off the tube and hit the beach, according to TV Azteca CEO Mario San Roman.

The web also posted a higher tax payment of $45 million due to deferred income taxes from presales in the period. Azteca noted that the change in reporting standards cut last year’s first quarter sales from  $172 million to $162 million. The broadcaster also consolidated UHF channel Proyecto 40 into its results for the first time.

The report noted that without Proyecto 40 and the standards change, Azteca would have notched up a 6% rise in comparable net sales and a 4% gain in operating profit compared with 2007.

Proyecto 40 has been plagued with contract disputes with co-owner Javier Moreno-Valle. Azteca sent in armed guards to take control of the station and transmission facilities in December 2002.

San Roman sought to put a sunny spin on months ahead.

“On the strategic front, we announced the launch of operations in Guatemala to take place in June, which gives an additional boost to the company’s scope abroad, and enhances the outlook for revenue and profitability,” he said.

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