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Cox profits slide

Company posts 83% decline from '00 quarter

HOLLYWOOD — Cabler Cox Communications posted an 83% drop in third-quarter profits Thursday, as economic sluggishness and Sept. 11 aftershocks undermined local ad sales while operating costs escalated.

The Atlanta-based company reported $143 million in net income in the latest quarter, compared with a $838.1 million profit in the same period last year.

A 12% jump in programming costs from a year earlier contributed to the quarterly slide, officials said. Cox, the nation’s fifth-largest cabler, with 6.2 million customers, also absorbed higher infrastructure costs as the company continued to upgrade systems to facilitate the ongoing rollout of digital cable and other deluxe services.

Revenue rose 14% to $1.03 billion. Gain comes despite ad sales slumping as Cox added 40,000 basic cable subs and subscription revenue spurted.

Cox said it expects the same level of growth in 2002. That reps an adjustment from a previous forecast of 14%-16% growth next year.

Ads, attacks

“Advertising sales have been slow all year due to the uncertain economy,” CEO Jim Robbins said. “But the business disruption caused by the events of the Sept. 11 national tragedies contributed further to this issue.”

Separately on Thursday, affiliate Cox Enterprises said it will sell 13.5 million shares in Cox Communications — a 2.2% stake worth roughly $530 million — to unspecified private investors. Cox Enterprises, which publishes newspapers including the Atlanta Constitution, expects the transaction to be completed by Monday.

Cox Communications shares closed down 23¢ at $39.25 on Thursday.

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