NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. reported improved first-quarter results Tuesday that edged past Wall Street expectations, and said it is on track to continue to see earnings growth.
The company, whose businesses include television network CBS, movie studio Paramount Pictures and radio broadcaster Infinity Broadcasting, reported earnings of $$462 million, or 26 cents a share, excluding special items. That's up from $367 million, or 21 cents a share, on that basis a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by earnings tracker First Call forecast earnings per share of 25 cents for the period.
Separately, Viacom announced Tuesday morning it is buying the 50 percent of cable network Comedy Central that it didn't already own away from joint venture partner AOL Time Warner Inc. for $1.23 billion. It said that the deal, expected to close in the second quarter, should add to future earnings per share.
The company said it expects to post single-digit percentage growth in earnings for all of 2003, along with mid-teen growth in operating income and earnings per share. First Call's 2003 forecast is for EPS of $1.43, which is up 15 percent from the $1.24 a share it earned in 2002.
Viacom's first quarter revenue rose 7 percent to $6.05 billion, which also edged First Call's forecast of $6.03 billion. It saw revenue growth across most of its units, with only radio posting a 2 percent decline in revenue.
Broadcast television networks, the company's largest unit which includes both CBS and UPN, saw revenue rise 4 percent to $1.9 billion, even though the NCAA men's basketball tournament, a major revenue driver, concluded in the second quarter rather than the first quarter, as it has in past years. Those broadcasts, and advertising revenues, were also disrupted by CBS's coverage of the start of the war in Iraq, although Viacom did not break out that impact in the earnings statement. The unit saw operating income rise 13 percent to $242.6 million.
The company's cable networks, its most profitable unit, saw revenue rise 13 percent to $1.2 billion, while operating income rose 21 percent to $432.2 million.
Shares of Viacom (VIA: Research, Estimates) closed up 13 cents to $40.84 in trading Monday.