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Time Warner Beats, Shares Rise

Updated from 8:13 a.m. EST.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Time Warner's (TWX) shares were gaining almost 5% Wednesday after the media company's fourth-quarter earnings beat analysts' estimates on strong overall revenue gains.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, the company saw earnings rise 21.9% to $769 million, or 68 cents a share, compared with earnings of $631 million, or 52 cents a share, in the same period a year earlier.

Excluding items, fourth-quarter earnings were 67 cents per share. Analysts were expecting profit of 62 cents.

Revenue increased 8.3% to $7.81 billion from $7.21 billion, reflecting growth at the company's networks and filmed entertainment segments.

Total revenue at its Time publishing unit dropped 2%, while a 3% gain in its advertising revenue was more than offset by a 2% drop in subscription revenue.

"Time Warner had an outstanding year in 2010. We posted our strongest revenue growth in years, grew adjusted operating income 17% and increased adjusted EPS by over 30%," said Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes, in a company statement.

For the 2010 fiscal year, earnings rose 4.1% to $2.6 billion, or $2.25 a share, from earnings of $2.5 billion, or $2.07 a share, in the same period a year earlier.

Revenue rose 5.9% to $26.89 billion from $25.39 on strong results at the networks and filmed entertainment segments. This gain represents the company's highest revenue growth rate since 2004. Operating income increased 21% to $5.4 billion while adjusted operating income rose 17% to $5.4 billion, the highest level in the company's history.

Total advertising revenue grew 10%, driven by a 14% increase in ad revenue at Turner and a 3% gain at Time.

Analyst Alan Gould with Evercore Partners believes the standout figure from the quarterly report was the 21% growth in cable network advertising.

"This is an indication of how strong the upfront was for Time Warner, which should flow through for the next couple of quarters, and the strength of the overall cable network advertising environment," Gould said in a research note to investors on Wednesday.

He predicts the overall strength of the industry will be reflected positively through other cable network companies such as Viacom (VIA), Discovery (DISCA), Scripps (SNI) and News Corp. (NWSA).

He gives Time Warner a buy rating and has a $38 price target on the stock.

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