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Karmazin puts gleam in shareholders’ Eye

CBS CEO hopes to increase cash flow 20% in '99

NEW YORK — CBS Corp. hopes to increase its cash flow at least 20% in 1999, CBS CEO Mel Karmazin told shareholders Tuesday, noting the Eye was “making progress” in lifting television earnings but still had room to grow.

Karmazin told a friendly audience of shareholders, who have watched CBS stock rise 31% over the past 12 months to its recent highs near $47 a share, that the Eye web was “on target” to become profitable this year. CBS stock fell 25¢ to $46.62 on Tuesday.

Ultimately the network will “generate a significant amount of cash flow,” Karmazin said. Cash flow is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, the measure Karmazin said he preferred to use as an indicator of business performance.

Numerous shareholders got up to thank Karmazin for the strength in CBS’ stock price over the past year after several years of stagnation. Karmazin was installed as CEO on the retirement of Michael Jordan late last year.

Still room for growth

In a long and detailed presentation, Karmazin discussed the market situations of every CBS division and his expectations for the future. He noted that while the CBS station group dramatically outperformed the rest of the TV station industry in the past year, “there is still an awful long way for us to go” in improving its performance.

He noted that the network was “going into the May sweeps with a legitimate shot at holding No. 1. … Whatever happens we will have won more weeks than anyone else, and we are proud of that.”