Earnings: Cisco, Viacom, J.C. Penney, HealthSouth

Earnings: Cisco | Viacom | J.C. Penney | HealthSouth

Cisco Profit Up By 28 Percent

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Soaring sales and gains from a recent buyout are being credited with a huge jump in profit at Cisco Systems (CSCO).

After the markets closed yesterday, the San Jose-based firm reported it earned one-point-61 (b) billion dollars, or 26 cents per share, for its first quarter.

That's a 28 percent jump over the same quarter a year ago.

Analysts say Cisco — the world's largest networking equipment maker — profited from a buying binge among customers who upgraded outdated gear. Sales were also boosted by customers who wanted faster Internet service for video and other data downloads.

Cisco also from benefited from its recent acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta, the world's second-largest cable television box seller.

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Viacom Profit Lowers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viacom Inc. (VIA) reported a lower quarterly profit from continuing operations Thursday, as disappointing box-office results offset higher advertising sales at its MTV Networks cable service.

The media conglomerate also said Chief Financial Officer Michael Dolan was leaving at the end of the year and Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Dooley would take on those additional duties.

Dooley and another close of associate of Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, Chief Executive Philippe Dauman, were appointed in September when Redstone pushed out former CEO Tom Freston for not being aggressive enough in pursuing Internet deals.

Dolan's departure was seen as part of the executive management overhaul.

Viacom, owner of the Paramount film studios and various cable networks, said third-quarter earnings from continuing operations fell to $356.3 million, or 50 cents per share, from $449.8 million, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $2.66 billion. Analysts on average were expecting $2.64 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

Cable network revenue rose 10 percent to $1.8 billion, as operating profit increased 14 percent to $778 million on higher advertising sales at the MTV group.

"The quarter illustrates the underlying strengths of the cable network business, with subscription fees up double digits and advertising up high single digits," Pali Capital analyst Richard Greenfield said.

The film division reported an operating loss of $6 million, compared with a year-earlier profit of $108.2 million, as revenue rose 1 percent to $856.5 million.

Box office sales for such third-quarter releases as "World Trade Center" failed to surpass those for year-earlier titles, which included "War of the Worlds."

Corporate expenses also rose after Redstone ousted Freston.

New York-based Viacom split off its broadcast divisions in January to appeal to different classes of shareholders.

"I am confident that you will see further operational success in the not too distant future," Redstone said in a statement.

Viacom affirmed its full year 2006 financial outlook, which calls for a double-digit percentage rise in revenue and operating income. The company also expects to post full-year earnings per share of $1.95 to $2.00 from continuing operations, excluding items.

J.C. Penney Profit Climbs

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Department store operator J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP) Thursday reported higher third-quarter profit, boosted by new brands and the opening of more stores.

The company, which is moving aggressively to transform its image from a stodgy retailer into a trendy one with fashionable merchandise, reported net income of $287 million, or $1.26 per share, up from $234 million, or 94 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts, on average, had been expecting it to earn $1.23 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

J.C. Penney and rival Kohl's Corp. are working to grab a larger share of business from middle-income Americans by introducing more stylish and exclusive merchandise, and by opening stores closer to their shoppers.

The efforts seem to be paying off, with sales at both retailers rising.

Penney said total net sales rose 6.7 percent to $4.78 billion, in line with analysts' estimates. Sales at department stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a retailer's health known as comparable store sales, increased 5.2 percent

Penney said its gross margin improved by 80 basis points to 42.6 percent of sales, helped by its private brands and better inventory management.

For the fourth-quarter, Penney forecast earnings per share of approximately $1.94, compared with analysts' current view of $1.91.

Penney's shares have risen almost 41 percent this year, compared with a 51 rise for Kohl's and an 8.4 percent rise in the Standard & Poor's Retailing Index.

HealthSouth Loss Widens

NEW YORK (Reuters) - HealthSouth Corp. (HLS), the biggest U.S. operator of rehabilitation facilities, Thursday posted a wider third-quarter net loss after charges from government lawsuits and one-time expenses.

The net loss rose to $82.6 million, or $1.04 per share, from $11.5 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 4.6 percent to $731.2 million due in part to stringent new requirements for reimbursement under the government's Medicare health insurance program.

The latest results included expenses of $28.4 million related to government, class action and other lawsuits and a loss of $28.7 million from an interest rate swap.

Birmingham, Alabama-based HealthSouth is still emerging from a multibillion-dollar accounting scandal that led to investigations by securities regulators and the U.S. Justice Department, and the ouster of founder and chief executive Richard Scrushy.

The company was relisted on the New York Stock Exchange in mid-October. Its chief executive has said he expected the company to be profitable in the first half of 2007, once it divests three of its units.

The company was delisted in March 2003 by the NYSE as the accounting fraud unfolded. Fifteen HealthSouth executives eventually pleaded guilty to criminal charges in a scheme to inflate earnings, though Scrushy was acquitted on charges he engineered the fraud.