Cablevision profit falls by almost half

Spinoff of AMC accounts for drop

Cablevision’s net income plunged by nearly half in the fourth quarter absent contributions from the AMC Networks cablers, which were spun off last year.

Revenue for the New York area company rose 7.3% to $1.7 billion, including the acquisition of smaller cabler Bresnan during the year. Core revenue from cable operations grew 8.3% to $1.51 billion as a slight dip in video subscribers was offset by growth in data and voice.

Cablevision shares fell sharply after an initial uptick, closing down 9.65% at $14.13.

Investors fretted about the company’s plans for higher capital spending in 2012 and hefty debt. There’s also concern about its depleted bench after the exit of chief operating officer Tom Rutledge earlier this year. John Bickham, the president of cable operations, also stepped down last year.

CEO James Dolan during a conference call that for now he would remain in charge of the business.

The industry was baffled by Rutledge’s abrupt departure for smaller cabler Charter Communications. BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield said it appears the two execs were pushed out and that Dolan blamed them for the aggressive incursion of Verizon’s FiOS service in Cablevision territory.

Cablevision profit fell to $60 million from $113 million. Earnings from continuing operations excluding AMC fell 18%.

Operating income rose 28% to $346 million.

Dolan called 2011 “an important year for Cablevision as it marked the culmination of several multiyear initiatives — spinning off MSG and AMC, completing the Bresnan acquisition, paying quarterly dividends and actively buying back stock.”

Dolan noted during a conference call that Cablevision hasn’t raised its rates for 2012 but is eliminating some low-priced packages.

Cablevision ended the year with 3.62 million customers. Video subs dipped by 11,000 but high-speed data and voice were up by 21,000 and 30,000, respectively.

Commercial biz Optimum Lightpath saw revenue rise 9.7% to $79 million, and operating income more than doubled to $16 million.

Cablevision’s other assets include Newsday, News 12 Networks, MSG Varsity, Clearview Cinemas and Cablevision Media Sales (formerly Rainbow Advertising Sales). Revenue fell 5.5% to $117 million, mostly on advertising declines at Newsday. Losses narrowed to $81 million.