Liberty arm reports overseas profit jump

LMI earns $26.3 million on revenues of $1.2 billion

John Malone’s Liberty Media International swung to a profit and more than doubled its revenues in the last quarter as operations hummed along across the various businesses of the giant overseas cable and programming company.

LMI reported earnings of $26.3 million on revenues of $1.2 billion. That compared with a loss of $83.9 million and revenues of $576.2 in the first quarter of 2004.

Malone spunoff LMI from his U.S. operation, Liberty Media Corp., last June. It is the largest cable operator outside of the United States.

During an earnings call Friday, Malone told Wall Streeters that revenues and operating cash flow increased at all of LMI’s wholly or partially owned businesses.

That includes European voice and data service company UnitedGlobalCom (UGC) which has customers in 16 countries and Japan-based businesses Jupiter Programming and Jupiter Telecommunications.

Profit was driven especially by new high-speed Internet customers.

“We’re extremely well-funded and feel very comfortable with the balance sheet we currently have,” Malone said.

Malone said that LMI is poised to buy the 47% stake of UGC it does not own. Shareholders will take a vote on the acquisition June 15.

The combined company would be called Liberty Global.

LMI shares dropped 58¢ to close at $41.70 in trading Friday.

Also Friday, Moody’s Investors Service said it may cut the debt rating of Liberty Media Corp. to junk, citing Malone’s plan to pump up share value through such measures as debt-financed acquisitions.

A junk rating makes borrowing much more costly. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch already have reduced Liberty’s rating to junk.

(Wire services contributed to this report.)