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AOL Pulls Off a Solid Quarter

Subscription strength at its Internet and cable segments offsets weakness elsewhere.

AOL Time Warner


managed a nearly $400 million profit in the first quarter, helped by subscription growth at its AOL Internet division and cable properties. The media company posted $10 billion in quarterly revenue and backed full-year revenue growth estimates in the mid-single-digits.

The news was viewed positively on Wall Street, with the shares bid up about 4% to $13.79 on the Instinet premarket session.

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The company earned $396 million, or 9 cents a share, on 6.3% revenue growth in the latest quarter compared with a loss from continuing operations of $8 million, or break-even on a per-share basis, last year. Its bottom-line loss in the year-ago quarter was $54.2 billion, reflecting huge goodwill writedowns related to the merger of AOL and Time Warner.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- a metric preferred by managers of media companies -- rose 14% to $2 billion, while cash flow from operations totaled $1.5 billion and free cash flow totaled $1 billion.

On the top line, content revenue rose 11% to $3.3 billion, reflecting gains at its movie-producing and HBO divisions. Advertising revenue fell 5% to $1.3 billion, reflecting decreases at America Online and its cable units, offset partially by gains at the publishing and networks divisions. Other revenue decreased 21% to $472 million due to declines at the America Online and Publishing divisions.

The company's troubled AOL division posted better-than-expected EBITDA of $400 million, up from $343 million a year ago, while the unit's revenue fell to $2.2 billion from $2.29 billion.

Net debt at the end of the quarter was $26.3 billion, up from $25.8 billion at the end of 2002, reflecting additional borrowing related to the restructuring of Time Warner Entertainment.