Clear Channel Earnings Fall on Weak Ad Sales

Clear Channel Communications Inc.'s (CCU) third-quarter profit fell nearly 60 percent from the same period in 2003, which had been inflated by the nation's largest radio station operator's sale of its stake in a Spanish-language broadcasting network.

But the results beat Wall Street expectations and its shares rose 3 percent.

Clear Channel said Friday that it earned $261.2 million, or 44 cents per share, in the three months ended Sept. 30, down from $636 million, or $1.03 a share, in the year-ago period.

Thomson First Call said the consensus of industry analysts it surveyed was for earnings of 43 cents per share for the most recent quarter.

Clear Channel's year-ago results reflected gains on its sale of its stake in Univision Communications Inc. Without the one-time gains, Clear Channel's third-quarter profit in 2003 would have been $237 million, or 38 cents per share.

Its revenue in the third quarter of 2004 was $2.6 billion, up slightly from $2.5 billion a year ago.

Concerts and other live entertainment edged past radio-station operations as Clear Channel's largest source of revenue. Both sectors generated nearly $1 billion in the quarter.

Radio revenue was flat, while Clear Channel's concerts business grew about 4 percent. Growth was also seen in outdoor advertising.

Clear Channel said weakness in national advertising, particularly for cars and telecommunications, hurt its radio division.

For the year, the company said it expects operating income to rise modestly compared to 2003 and per-share earnings growth to be in the teens.

"We delivered strong financial results during what proved to be a very challenging quarter," said Mark Mays, president and chief executive. "We are in excellent position to increase shareholder value over the long term."

Jake Balzer, an analyst at Guzman & Co., agreed that the company should be company's prospects look good over the long haul. "Short-term, this sort of pain that radio is obviously feeling is continuing," Balzer said from Coral Gables, Fla. "I continue to think that, long-term, the outlook is bright."

Shares in Clear Channel, which have been rebounding in recent weeks, rose 30 cents, or 0.9 percent, to close at $33.40 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange (search). They are still well below their 52-week high of $47.76.