Viacom Posts Higher Revenue, Sets Comedy Central Buy

EBITDA rises 12%, topping forecasts.
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Viacom

(VIA) - Get Report

edged past analysts' estimates and bought an asset from debt-conscious

AOL Time Warner

(AOL)

.

For the first quarter ended March 31, Viacom reported revenue of $6.05 billion, just ahead of the Thomson/First Call expectation of $6.03 billion and up 7% from the first-quarter figure for 2002.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization grew 12% to $1.23 billion, a few percentage points past most analysts' growth projections.

Net earnings before the cumulative effect of change in accounting principle amounted to 26 cents a share, ahead of the First Call consensus of 25 cents.

Separately, Viacom said it reached an agreement to buy the half of Comedy Central it doesn't own, paying partner AOL Time Warner $1.23 billion. The transaction is expected to close by the end of June.

Within Viacom, operating income grew 21% at its cable networks, rose 13% at its broadcast TV operations, and increased 25% at its video operations, the majority-owned

Blockbuster

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.

The company reiterated full-year 2003 guidance of mid-single digit revenue growth, double-digit EBITDA growth and operating income growth in the midteens.