CEO boasts 'return to growth'

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Friday boasted a long-awaited return to growth in 2012 for the first time in eight years as, he said, the firm works to build a “next generation” media and telecom company.

Net income surged 57% to $36 million last quarter as global advertising sales of $411 million grew 13%. Search revenue was up 17%. Display was flat.

Skeptics of the Netco, which has struggled through a disastrous merger and numerous retoolings since, were silenced at least for the moment as AOL shares vaulted higher. The stock was up about 9% in early trading, way above the broader market.

Subscription revenue fell 10% to $174 million, showing a slower rate of decline. The figure was off 18% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Total corporate revenue nosed 4% to $600 million.

AOL moved last quarter to split its business into three segments for clarity: the Brands group, with AOL.com and offshoots like the Huffington Post, Patch, TechCrunch, MapQuest, Moviefone and others; the Membership group free and paid, including AOL Mail and AIM; and AOL Networks, including Advertising.com, ADTECH, Pictela, Goviral and AOL On.

Brands revenue rose 4% to $213 million. Adjusted operating profit plunged 34% to $8.8 million.

Membership revenue fell 9% to $231 million as profit dipped 10% to $158 million. Networks revenue surged 37% to $184 million and the division swung to a $6.4 million profit from a $10.7 million loss the year before.

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