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Time Warner Swings To Profit For Q4 But Publishing Continues Decline

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When a quarter is as rough as Q408 was for Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), anything decent is going to look pretty good in comparison. Comparing last year’s $16 billion loss with its massive writedowns to the Q409 net income of $627 million broke the calculator we use for our charts but what really matters for this first earnings period post-AOL (NYSE: AOL) is that it’s positive and the $0.55 earnings per share the analyst estimates by three cents, compared with a loss of $5.46 per share in Q408. (Time Warner rewarded shareholders by raising the dividend $0.13 and tripling its stock buyback program to $3 billion.)

CEO Jeff Bewkes has a content-based company now as Time Warner heads into its first full year without AOL and Time Warner — and, unless the unexpected kicks in again, a year where the results are more about the company, less about the economy. What does the foundation look like?

Publishing takes AOL’s place as the drag on the company but even its numbers look good compared to last year, with operating income of $79 million compared to the loss of $7.1 billion in Q408 after the $7 billion impairment charge. The real numbers: Revenue dropped 13 percent to $1.1 billion including decreases in advertising (12 percent) and subscription (6 percent). Restructuring charges in Q409 totaled $92 million, compared with $130 million in the same quarter last year. On the plus side, subscriptions only dropped 6 percent.

Networks accounted for a $104million writedown for the rights to Without A Trace, acquired from sibling Warner Bros. (B&C has the details.) As for actual operating results, subscription revenue rose 11 percent while advertising dropped a mere 4 percent for Q409. But “content” revenues were down 22 percent.

Filmed entertainment jumped 7 percent, aided by the Q4 success of The Blind Side and Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter DVD sales. Also contributing: the segment’s games, including LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues and LEGO Rock Band.

Earnings release | Webcast | Transcript (via SeekingAlpha)