Belo Earnings Lower Than Predicted

Friday, February 9th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) — Newspaper and broadcast company Belo Corp. fell short of Wall Street's expectations in the fourth quarter and said Friday that the current quarter will be challenging due to weakening demand for advertising.

Dallas-based Belo said fourth-quarter net earnings rose to $85.7 million, or 76 cents per share, from $69.4 million, or 58 cents per share a year earlier.

Those numbers, however, include one-time gains from the sale of three newspapers, a television station and other items.

Excluding one-time gains and charges, the company's income was 27 cents per share, a penny less than expected among analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial. The comparable year-ago figure was 23 cents.

Revenue rose 6.7 percent to $421.7 million from $395.2 million. After-tax cash flow rose to $1.34 per share from 95 cents per share.

Belo owns five newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News, 17 television stations and several Internet sites. In the fourth quarter, it sold three small newspapers and the KOTV television station in Tulsa, Okla.

Robert W. Decherd, Belo's chairman, president and chief executive, said 10 of the company's operating units recorded record revenue in 2000, thanks to heavy advertising for the political campaigns and the Olympic Games.

But, Decherd, warned, Belo's ability to match its year-ago earnings-per-share numbers in the first quarter ``will be difficult due to the soft advertising environment that has accompanied the slowing U.S. economy, significantly higher newsprint costs, and continued investment in Belo Interactive.''

Decherd predicted that a rebounding economy will lead to growth in revenue and operating cash flow for the full year.

For all of 2000, Belo said, revenue grew 10.8 percent to $1.59 billion from $1.43 billion in 1999. Adjusted earnings per share rose to 82 cents per share from 73 cents, and after-tax cash flow rose to $3.02 per share from $2.50 per share in 1999.

After-tax cash flow is net income excluding special charges such as amortizing goodwill from acquisitions. Analysts who cover media companies follow the number closely.

In midday trading Friday, Belo shares fell 29 cents to $18.68.

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