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Tribune delivers big earnings gain in 2Q

Co. made almost $230 mil compared to 2002's $114 mil

Tribune Co. posted stellar second-quarter earnings on Thursday, beating Wall Street estimates and nearly doubling last year’s numbers, amid newfound strength in advertising for its core publishing and broadcasting properties.

Report was a welcome piece of good news for the publishing sector, which has otherwise posted mixed financial results for the quarter as lingering softness in the ad market continued to take its toll on their operations.

The Chicago-based media firm, whose holdings include the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times as well as 24 TV stations and a minority interest in the WB broadcast net, said it earned just under $230 million in the quarter, compared with $114 million a year earlier.

B’cast division strong

Broadcasting was a particularly bright spot for Tribune. The division repped around a third of the company’s $1.45 billion in revenues for the quarter, but turned in 40% of its operating profit, at $149 million, compared with just under $130 million in 2002.

Tribune estimated that its income for the full year of 2003 would be roughly in line with estimates on Wall Street — assuming an ad recovery continued apace. But the company expected tougher going in the coming quarter, blaming higher expenses in programming.

The mixed assessment for the coming year spooked some investors, despite an otherwise strong report for the past quarter. Tribune shares moved lower by 0.7% to $46.65 in Thursday’s trading. Company has been trading choppily in recent months but is still off its lows for the year around $42.

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