slow rebound continued in 2004's first quarter, as steadily improving results across most of its segments helped it narrow the loss and reduce its overall debt.
The media conglomerate lost roughly $7.26 million, or 1 cent a share, in the quarter ended March 21, compared with a loss of $385.9 million, or 36 cents a share, last year. Revenue dipped slightly to $7.22 billion from $7.55 billion, reflecting the impact of unfavorable currency translation. Excluding currency, revenue rose 7% from a year ago.
The company's operating income was about $1.13 billion in the latest quarter, compared with $1.02 billion a year ago. It cited improvements at its SFR mobile phone unit, Vivendi Universal Entertainment and Canal-plus, as well as better cost controls. A $40 million year-over-year improvement at Vivendi Universal Entertainment reflected solid performance at Universal Television and the company's sale of Spencer Gifts.
Net debt fell to about $8.47 billion from $14.04 billion a year ago, primarily reflecting the sale of the company's entertainment division to
NBC. The company hopes to further reduce debt to about $6.05 billion by the end of the year.
At Universal Music, the worlds biggest music company, the first-quarter operating loss was $19.4 million, compared with $33.9 million a year ago. The improvement was driven by lower marketing and overhead costs, partially offset by margin pressure created by lower sales volumes and higher amortization expenses and restructuring costs.