Viacom Q3 Profit Beats Forecasts

Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. (VIAB) on Tuesday reported a third-quarter profit as higher advertising sales at its MTV cable networks and the "War of the Worlds" box-office release offset a slump at the television stations group.

The owner of the Paramount movie studios, Simon & Schuster (search) book publishers and the CBS television network posted earnings of $708.5 million, or 45 cents per share, compared with a year-earlier net loss of $487.6 million, or 28 cents per share.

Excluding special items, the profit of 47 cents per share beat the analysts' average forecast by 2 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue rose 10 percent to $5.9 billion, compared with Wall Street (search) expectations of $5.8 billion.

Driving the company's third-quarter gains was a 54 percent jump in Paramount Studios (search) revenue, which benefited from the "War of the Worlds" release and DVD sales.

"Given how concerned investors are in the media sector, Viacom's ability to generate 5 percent revenue growth excluding the film business illustrates why we think there is significant underlying value in the assets," Fulcrum Global Partners analyst Richard Greenfield said.

Viacom booked charges of $19 million from the sale of two TV stations and $17 million from previously announced plans to split itself part. It also recorded $22 million in expenses and lost revenue from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Revenue rose 15 percent at the cable networks, but fell 2 percent at the TV stations because of lower licensing sales.

Radio station revenue rose 2 percent from growth in local and national advertising.

For the full year, Viacom backed its earlier forecast of mid-single-digit percentage growth in revenue and operating income and a high single-digit rise in earnings per share before special items.

Also on Tuesday, Viacom named veteran media consultant Michael Wolf as MTV Networks chief operating officer.

Viacom plans to split its high-growth cable networks and films division from its mature broadcast networks by the end of the year to appeal to different classes of shareholders.

"Here is an asset that investors have very much given up on," Greenfield said. He added that there is "tremendous growth in the new Viacom," which will consist of the cable networks and film studio.

Viacom shares have fallen more than 15 percent this year, and big media stocks are down between 7 percent and 20 percent, outpacing the Standard & Poor's 500 index's 2 percent decline.